SUPPORTERS' hopes that Chester City was set to enter a second spell in administration have been dashed.
Rumours were rife yesterday that David Acland, the Preston-based administrator who moved into the Deva Stadium following the departure of the previous owner, was about to return.
But his response yesterday was unequivocal. "That¹s rubbish," he said. "All I am prepared to say is that we are still finalising the CVA (creditors' voluntary agreement)."
The CVA was drawn up at the time of the sale of the club to the Smiths and it is believed creditors recently voted against a proposed extension with certain debts still outstanding beyond the expiry of the agreement. These are believed to relate to players' bonuses agreed by the previous owners.
Fans were clinging to the administration lifeline, believing that would mean the end of the Smith regime, so this will be a major setback to their hopes.
The club is in disarray with most of the senior players officially available for transfer as Terry Smith, who remains absent from matches, embarks on severe cost cutting with crowds still to reach four figures this season.
Players at this level are, of course, always available, but the news that other clubs had been circulated only reached the City dressing room before the game at Hilton Park.
"We are not a bad team, but we have been kicked in the guts," said director of football Gordon Hill following the 3-0 defeat at Leigh.
The arrival of former Southport defender Dave Linighan and ex-York City striker David McNiven on non-contract forms could become the norm, along with part-timers, if players are sold to cut the wage bill, assuming the club remains in control of the current board.
There is still no sign of the end of the Smith regime and there is no evidence to suggest a serious buyer is waiting in the wings, although Merseysider Phil Davies, golf club owner and music promoter Gareth Davies and even former owner Mark Guterman remain linked with the club.
Hill refuses to be drawn into the political wrangling that is tearing the club apart. "We are professionals and we should be playing for pride and for ourselves," he said.
"If I was a player I would be playing my socks off to get away if I was being made available for transfer.
"It doesn't help us with what is going on, but I am not going to let it get me down. I have friends in New York and last week's events have put everything into perspective as far as I am concerned."
For tomorrow's visit of Conference leaders Dagenham and Redbridge there remain doubts about injured Dean Spink and Chris Malkin who face fitness tests.
Dagenham, who were beaten at home by Leigh RMI last Saturday, bounced back on Wednesday with a 2-1 victory at Boston, confirming the inconsistency being shown by most of the Conference teams this season. This provided some hope that Chester can somehow ignore the many distractions behind the scenes and also hit back to end a run of six matches without a victory.
City were in action against Congleton in the Cheshire Senior Cup last night with some first team squad members on duty, so Hill will have a roll call this morning before settling on his line-up.
* Chester reserves meet Southport on Tuesday (7.45) in a Lancashire League match.
* There will be a meeting of fans on Monday at the Royal Mail Club, Station Road, starting at 7.30pm.