Graham Alexander admits he is facing the toughest few days of his career after his side rounded off their season with a 2-1 victory at Port Vale.
First-half goals from Josh Morris and Mark Roberts – both playing possibly their last match for the club – ensured a top-10 finish in Town’s first League One campaign.
Morris blasted home at the back post following a superb run from David Ball down the right.
Ball, also out of contract, was also involved in the second, heading on Morris’ corner for Mark Roberts to get the vital touch at the near post.
Town were denied a clean sheet by Michael O’Connor’s deflected strike in stoppage-time and Alexander is now preparing for two days of talks with his out-of-contract stars.
Stewart Murdoch, Nathan Pond, Gareth Evans, Steven Schumacher, Jamille Matt, Jeff Hughes and Stephen Jordan could all potentially leave Highbury in the coming days, with Alexander hinting a major rebuild is ahead.
He said: “We’ll be speaking to players today and tomorrow, and we’ll tell people the names of those who aren’t going to be here next season.
“It’s a tough time for me as a manager because what a lot of these boys have done over the last couple of years is superb.
“They haven’t let us down at all but there’s a different direction the club is going in. We have to take into account all the factors we’ll face next season.
“We’ll enjoy what we can take from this season while we can before we get down to that.”
The manager said of the coming days: “They’ll be the toughest I’ve had in my career. Two years ago we had an overhaul of the squad but I probably wasn’t as attached to those players as I was to these boys.
“There are some very tough decisions to make but we have to do what’s best for the club.”
Alexander was proud to see his squad end on a winning note. “The lads were superb from minute one,” he said.
“We’ve said we wanted to finish the season on a high. We’ve definitely done that.
“The supporters can go into the summer with a smile on their faces and a good feeling about their team.
“The lads have been superb since day one of pre-season. They’ve stayed positive.
“We’ve had setbacks along the way. But for a first season at this level, to finish in the top 10 is a fantastic achievement.”
And he believes had his side been able to show such clinical finishing over the course of the campaign, his side might have come closer to a play-off challenge.
Alexander told The Gazette: “Scoring goals has been a concern over the course of 46 games. If we’d scored a couple more, we could maybe have moved up a couple of places.
“We know we can impove on that but we’ve scored some very good goals, and I thought we could have had more at Port Vale if we’d taken a bit more care in the final third.
“But our general play was excellent on probably the biggest pitch in the league. The ground they’ve covered is fantastic.
“All the boys deserve a pat on the back, not only for what they’ve achieved this season but for the last one as well.
“I’m sad for the lads not to keep a clean sheet because I know how proud they are of their defensive record.
“It’s three points we wanted to get and we’re really pleased with how we’ve finished.”
Josh Morris, Adam Chicksen and Stephen Dobbie will all leave Town as their loan spells end.