Chester FC: Survival is the priority for McCarthy's Blues

Reporter:

Dan Heald

National League survival remains the immediate priority for Chester boss Jon McCarthy ahead of a congested fortnight of fixtures.

Following an enforced two-week break, the Blues return to action against Eastleigh tomorrow before a home game against Macclesfield on Tuesday.

Currently 13th in the league standings, Chester have earned 46 points from their fixtures to date and sit eight points above the bottom four.

With 11 league games remaining, McCarthy believes that two more victories will secure their league status.

He said: “Eastleigh and Macclesfield form the end of a very difficult run of games that we’ve been on since February.

“On paper we’ve been playing a lot of the teams at the top the league and we’ve had some good performances in there, but we haven’t quite been able to turn them into points.

“We’ve been close so there are a lot of positives that I can take from those games. It’s given me the chance to learn how to take more points from the top sides.

“I think 52 points would have us completely safe. It is possible to do it over the next two games but I’d like to be a lot closer to it if we haven’t already achieved it by the end of Tuesday night.”

McCarthy’s side sit level on points with big-spending Eastleigh, who have endured a turbulent campaign after three managerial sackings in seven months.

Caretaker boss Richard Hill led The Spitfires to a 2-0 win against Barrow last weekend and McCarthy believes the club have made a shrewd appointment.

“The manager there has a reputation of doing well and he’s come in and immediately got them a great result against a good Barrow team,” McCarthy added. “I think us being level on points with them surprises everybody in our league. I think people will be disappointed with Eastleigh and surprised by how well we’ve done.

“They have a lot of advantages there in terms of resources, but they also have a lot of pressure on them to get results.

“But anybody who achieves success in this league, whether it’s with money or without, deserves to be congratulated.

“Our win there in November was our most outstanding result and performance of the season. Tactically we got everything right that day and came away with a brilliant 3-0 win.”

The two-week break was initially viewed as a hindrance to the club, but revisions to the club’s training schedule in that time have proved fruitful.

McCarthy said: “It was enforced upon on us, it wasn’t something that we wanted. so, we’ve looked at it and thought how do we make the best of it?’

“It has given us a chance to change and work on some things in training. It’s been a mini pre-season for us and the lads have worked very hard over a couple of days.

“We’ve used the time to look at how we do things in our training environment. It’s been good and it has led to increase in the volume of work players get through in training.

“Its led to a change in how we focus our training in terms of embedding technique and the intensity of the sessions.

“Coming out of it, I’m very happy that we’ve had chance to do that where at first I was just thinking ‘why have we been thrown this?’ So we’ve made the best of what wasn’t an ideal situation for us.”

McCarthy refused to be drawn on whether Lucas Dawson would feature in tomorrow’s game after impressing  in the 3-2 defeat against Tranmere Rovers.

The 23-year-old midfielder came off the bench and showed glimpses of real quality in his brief cameo for the Blues.

McCarthy said: “A lot fell into place for Lucas to make the bench for that game, with injuries to three other players who might have made the bench before him normally.

“But the way the game panned out, it was made for him. He made a good impact and showed a good workrate, but could perhaps have kept the ball for one of their goals.

“I’m going to push him and I want more from him, but it isn’t to put more additional pressure on him.

“The team I pick will be the best players in training and their performances tomorrow and Tuesday will determine whether they stay in the side.”

Midfielder Tom Shaw has returned to train with the squad after recovering from a knee injury, while striker James Akintunde is also nearing a return.

Jordan Chapell and Craig Mahon both remain sidelined.

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