ROB Smith, manager of Chester FC’s promotion rivals Hednesford Town, has turned up the heat for Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash by saying Neil Young’s side are as good as champions already.
But the Blues boss has dismissed such talk out of hand, insisting all the pressure will be on the Pitmen at the Exacta Stadium.
Young, whose side lead Hednesford by three points, said: “If we beat them we’ll go six points clear with a game in hand.
“We’ll be going for the win but the main thing for us is to ensure we don’t get beat.
“It’s more important for Hednesford to win. If they’ve got title aspirations they’ve got to come and beat us.”
Smith, however, claims he has written off his team’s chance of winning the title.
The former AFC Telford United manager said: “In my eyes the pressure is all on Chester. We will go there to show we can play good football but I have little doubt they will win this division.”
Young has laughed off that suggestion and rates the Pitmen, who won on their last visit to Chester in March 2001, as a ‘genuine threat’.
They have beaten Chester twice at their Keys Park home this season. They won August’s league meeting between the teams 1-0 with a last-gasp Jamey Osborne strike.
The home club’s celebrations after the match still rankle with the Blues squad.
Hednesford also got the better of Chester in the Doodson Sport Cup in November.
Whether second-placed Northwich Victoria can sustain their championship challenge remains to be seen following this week’s extraordinary events at the Victoria Stadium.
Already rocked by the shock departure of manager Andy Preece to Airbus UK Broughton, Vics have been told to vacate their ground by the weekend after the land on which it sits was sold to a mystery bidder.
Young said: “It is sad for Northwich because they have done really well.
“But we’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves irrespective of what is going on elsewhere. We’ll be judged on what we have done come the end of the season.”
Young has selection problems going into Saturday’s match.
Wes Baynes and Michael Powell are suspended while Matty McGinn (hamstring) and Jerome Wright (ankle) are rated as doubtful after coming off in last weekend’s FA Trophy defeat at Ebbsfleet United.
Antoni Sarcevic hurt his ribs in the same game but is expected to be fit.
Young, who will be presented with his manager of the month award for December before the match, has spent this week searching for a left-back on loan should top scorer McGinn have to spend an extended spell on the sidelines.