FUTURE investment will be ‘essential’ for North Wales Crusaders to become a competitive force, says Anthony Murray.

The Cru’s League One play-off dreams were effectively ended by last weekend’s heavy 42-18 defeat at Hunslet, with the Wrexham club now vying for a ‘best of the rest’ spot.

Despite a generally positive campaign, Cru head coach Murray has cited the ‘massive’ disparity between the clubs currently challenging for promotion when compared to bottom half sides.

He said: “The money that’s been spent by some of those teams at the top in recent seasons - the likes of Newcastle this year and York last season - it puts things in perspective.

“Comparing our resources to those clubs up there challenging - we’re worlds apart. You’ve got clubs who are desperate to get out of this league and into the Championship and they’re throwing a lot of money at it.

“For us to be able to compete for automatic promotion - it’s essential we get the right investment in.

“Going into the Hunslet game and knowing we had to win to keep our play-off aspirations alive was testament to how hard our players have worked all season.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see which of the teams are spending money and how the league table pans out.

“Those who are, quite rightly, are the ones higher up the table. But that’s taking nothing away from my players - they’ve dug deep all season and only been beaten by a big margin twice this year.

“Most of our losses have been between 10 points and two points and we’ve pulled off some decent wins over the course of the season.”

Ninth-placed Coventry Bears visit the Queensway Stadium tomorrow as the Cru look to halt a three-game losing streak.

Crusaders ran out convincing 34-18 winners in the reverse fixture, with Murray targeting a strong finish in his side’s three remaining games.

“Our aim now is to finish in seventh spot,” he added. “We’ve got a couple of games where we’ll need to be at our best to get victories - starting with Coventry.

“All of our focus is on how strongly we can finish this season now and we have to be taking maximum points from this game and West Wales Raiders a week later.

“The lads are still positive and the desire and hunger is still there to sign off strongly this year.

“There has been a lot of progress in terms of how competitive we’ve been and I think we’ve given ourselves a platform to push on in the next couple of years.”

Captain Kenny Baker and centre Earl Hurst remain sidelined with injury, with both players unlikely to feature again this season.

League action starts today as Keighley Cougars host Hunslet, with second-placed Newcastle heading to Oldham tomorrow.

Play-off hopefuls London Skolars visit Doncaster while Workington will look to preserve their top-six status as they host West Wales.

St Helens coach Justin Holbrook enjoyed his side’s 30-12 Super League win over Warrington but knows it will count for little when the two sides meet again at Wembley in a fortnight’s time.

Wolves coach Steve Price fielded just eight members of his likely Challenge Cup final team while Saints were without six regulars for the dress rehearsal at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

Asked if his side’s third league win of the season gave them a mental edge over their neighbours ahead of Wembley, Holbrook said: “I don’t think so, probably not, to give you an honest answer.

“Both sides obviously had a number of players out so it was a tricky game to play. You still want to play well and we did that tonight.

“I thought we started a bit slow and it was close at half-time but we came away with a good win in the end.”

Castleford host London Broncos today, while Salford face Huddersfield and Hull FC head to Wakefield tomorrow.