Chester return to the Kuflink Stadium for the first time since their FA Trophy visit of January 2012 in desperate need of points as the Blues battle to rein in not just Solihull Moors above them, but also fast-improving Leyton Orient and Barrow who currently occupy the safe spots above the relegation zone.
Fleet know they will have to tighten up after uncharacteristic defensive lapses allowed Bromley to get their New Year off to a flying start last Monday. “We watched the game back as a group the day after,” Daryl McMahon told FleetOnline. “Apart from that spell with the mistakes for the goals, which were poor, there’s no getting away from that, the overall play was pretty good in parts and we did create the chances. I’m disappointed about the manner of goals and how many of them in that space of time, obviously, but at 3-2 I fancied us to get back into it and we showed character to get those two goals after the task we’d set ourselves. But we’ve had a conversation after that game and now we’re looking forward to Saturday.”
Personnel-wise, McMahon was waiting to see how Jack Payne got on later in the week to decide whether he’s ready for selection, while Jack Connors returned to training after illness. Another victim to the sickness doing the rounds post-Christmas was Jack Powell, who was substituted at Bromley after struggling with illness. He missed part of training this week but was due to return later in the week. Bradley Bubb showed no ill effects after his two substitute runouts and the manager reported him as “looking very good, very sharp”.
Chester’s biggest casualty could be top scorer Ross Hannah who has been hampered by a calf injury of late and that may win a recall for former Stourbridge and Solihull striker Jordan Archer who has sat out the past month with an injury of his own. Torquay loanee, defender Myles Anderson, is also back in the reckoning following a precautionary spell on the sidelines with concussion.
Chester boss Marcus Bignot, who was appointed in September, has made a couple of new signings in Archer and Jordan Gough, both players he managed at Solihull. But it has largely been an influx of loan players for the Blues who have recently taken on goalkeeper Sam Hornby (Port Vale), defenders Anderson, Reece Hall-Johnson (Grimsby) and strikers Nyal Bell (Gateshead) and Daniel Udoh (Crewe). Bignot stated after a fairly miserable Christmas for Chester that his loan players would likely have to go back at the end of January and he was preparing to recall some of Chester youngsters from their own loans to bolster their numbers.
But the squad to travel to the Fleet will likely be much the same as that which managed a point over the festive period, losing at home to Guiseley then seeing a late goal rob them of three points in the return fixture. There’s still plenty of know-how in the Blues side, with the likes of defenders Andy Halls, John McCombe and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner good campaigners at this level, while the midfield of Kingsley James, Paul Turnbull and Tom Shaw is an experienced one.
Chester have won only once on their travels this season, at Aldershot, but have fought out seven draws and have proved to be a tough nut to crack in all their away games bar 4-0 defeats at Dover and Halifax this season. Confidence is certainly low amongst Chester fans, but manager Bignot told the Chester Chronicle, “It’s a good job I have got the belief (to survive) because if I was to walk around the place listening to people then we may as well not come in and train. You ask the players whether I have the belief. It is about inspiring those around us now. There have been some home truths. The seniors have had to step up and what we have introduced is accountability and consequences if we don’t get performances. My players have been told home truths and rightly so. I have told the football club some home truths, and rightly so.”
The Swanscombe End is now closed for refurbishment until further notice as the club aims to bring capacity up above 4,000 before March.