JON MCCARTHY is refusing to entertain a possible play-off push until Chester have secured their National League safety.
The Blues have lost just twice in their past 16 league outings and currently lie seventh in the table, seven points off the top five ahead of their New Year’s Day re-match with Solihull Moors.
Despite suffering a 3-2 defeat at Solihull on Boxing Day, Chester lost little ground on the promotion contenders given results elsewhere but McCarthy wants to hit the magic 50-point mark – widely regarded as being enough to stay up – before beginning to look further ahead.
“It’s boring and it’s not what you want to here but I’ve got another 10 or 11 points to get before we’re safe,” insisted McCarthy, who could have Evan Horwood and Craig Mahon available for Sunday.
“We’ve given ourselves a massive buffer but our last game was a defeat. I know all too well how one defeat can become five or six in this league.
“We have to remember where we are as a club in this league. My set of players have given this club a huge buffer and a platform to build but January is a really important month.
“I targeted two wins from this group of five matches, and so far we’ve won one from two. Two wins will have us mid-table, three or above will keep us around our position and heading towards those play-offs.
“We will set a new target if we exceed our current target but I want the club to remain grounded and maintain our position. If we can win our next three league games, we’ll be in and amongst it.
“The most important thing remains to be safe because that means the club can make plans and look to increase the stability of a club that, if we’re honest, wasn’t very stable 12 months ago. We don't want to go into the last games of the season needing to win to stay in the league.”
McCarthy (pictured) was left frustrated with the match officials after the defeat at Solihull and left-back Johnny Hunt – sent off after 16 minutes – will miss the next three games through suspension.
“I had reasonable conversations with the officials and the assessor and I’ve had a chance to look at all the evidence,” McCarthy said.
“Johnny Hunt’s tackle isn’t even a yellow card, never mind a red. We think it’s a clean tackle with his laces but we can’t appeal as the FA will back the referee and I understand that, and they will say he had two feet off the ground. That was a wrong decision and it’s gone against us.
“The referee is a good referee, he spoke to me properly after the game and explained his decision. I make mistakes, players make mistakes, but on that situation we’ve been very harshly done by.
“I won’t blame individuals for the defeat because we’ve played with 10 men for 75 minutes, but that has meant we’ve got gaps throughout the pitch and second-half we were dragged about and exposed. There’s still bits that we did well and if we’d stuck to what we know, I still think we’d have got something from the game.
When asked if there is a sense of ‘exacting revenge on Liam McDonald’s Moors side, McCarthy replied: ’“There can’t be a sense of that from me because it translates to the players.
“Perhaps after the game, we can look back on it and say ‘we put that right’ but I need to be rational and detached about it.
“We have another game now against the same opposition, I have to be quite cold like that and move onto the next one.
“Hopefully we will have our full quota and I fancy our chances at home to go and get the right result.”
Ahead of Sunday’s clash at the Deva, striker Omari Sterling-James has signed a new contract with Solihull.
The 23-year-old, who scored two superb goals in the Boxing Day win over Chester, has netted four times in his last two games, prompting boss McDonald to say: “It’s an absolute pleasure working with a player of Omari’s ability and the next priority for me is to make him an even better player which is why we’ve given him a new contract.”