Jon McCarthy doesn’t have revenge on his minds as he prepares to take his Chester side to struggling Maidstone United tomorrow.
Jay Saunders’ Stones are two points from safety after a run of just one win in nine matches, but they did emerge from Chester with a 3-1 victory back in August, a match which saw Blues’ striker James Alabi score before getting sent off late on.
Chester lie 12th in the National League table ahead of tomorrow’s long trip to Kent following a run of six defeats in eight, but denies the clash at the Gallagher Stadium is ‘must-win’.
“Maidstone have had a big wake up call in playing in the National League. They’ve done well, it’s difficult to come up and I think they will be alright,” said McCarthy, who saw Ross Killock, Jordan Chapell and Matty Waters all get through over 60 minutes in the 3-2 behind-closed-doors friendly defeat against a Wigan XI on Tuesday.
“There’s a big change in squad and personnel from the first time we played them. They’ve had a good look at it, had a good start, and they’ve found the harsh realities and they’ve brought in competition and experienced midfielders to try and get them across the line.
“They will see this as a big game, they look at Chester losing three games and think it’s a chance to win if they are to achieve their priorities.
“We want to win every game, but it’s not a must-win game. People thought we’d have 10 less points on the board at this stage, there’s a mini-league at the bottom and those were the pressure games for us. Guiseley (2-0) and Braintree (1-0) at home, they were games I have to win.
“That’s when I was under real pressure, not now. It’s two away games, Southport and Maidstone, we don’t have to win those away games. Maidstone took points off us at home and that hurt so I’d like them to see we’re better and to take our fair share of the points.
“I feel that one still, we’d had an up and we were on our way having beaten Dagenham but actually we had a long way to go. It hurt and they were still on that ride from getting promoted.
“Now they’ve had a harder patch and in their past five games, I’ve watched them lose to Aldershot and draw with York where I thought they did well. It’s not outstanding form but it’s the sort of form that will keep them up, but we’re not on a good run so it’s big for us.
“The 3G pitch is no different from what we’ve trained on since October, grass is different for us as strange as that sounds.”
Chester have lost their past three outings and McCarthy is looking for a response from his squad after the disappointing 2-1 home reverse against Gateshead last weekend.
“Previously we had a stranglehold in that game and we needed to take advantage at that point,” he continued.
“When Gateshead got a grip on the game, they took advantage of it, there’s a couple of moments of concentration and things positionally that we didn’t get right and that’s disappointing.
“There was a general flatness about the performance. How much of that is down to us and how much is down to coming up against an experienced team with good players? I am disappointed but I’ve got to guard against complacency setting in given the position we had put ourselves in earlier this season.
“There’s always an element of defensive work. I’ll get together with a small group of players and go through a few things where we can improve. They have to perform individually and they will stay in the team. I have to get more of the players at that level this weekend.”
McCarthy revealed the club have taken three youngsters on trial with a view to signing permanent deals in the summer. Jamie Morgan (ex-Crewe), Lucas Dawson (former Stoke trainee) and Liam Davies (ex-Tranmere) are currently training with Chester, while full-back Theo Vassell has returned to parent-club Walsall for treatment, after suffering a hamstring strain against Gateshead.
“I get 20 emails and requests every week from clubs and agents, that’s no exaggeration,” McCarthy said.
“We’ve got Jamie Morgan from Crewe, he’s trained with us for quite a while. Lucas Dawson and Liam Davies have got good pedigree and fit our template. We don’t judge them on one session, I trust myself to see it if there’s something there."