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'They've done everything we asked': Chester FC boss praises strikers for meeting his challenge

Jon McCarthy told Alabi, Richards and Akintunde he wanted 25 goals off them this season

Kane Richards bundles in Chester FC's equaliser against Macclesfield Town(Image: Terry Marland)

When Ross Hannah swapped the Lookers Vauxhall Stadium for Holker Street in the summer to sign for Barrow AFC it left a huge hole in the Chester FC attack.

And, given the fact that the men tasked with the responsibility of filling that hole, James Alabi, Kane Richards and James Akintunde, had scored just 10 goals between them in the National League, the signs were not particularly positive.

But strikes for Alabi and Richards in Tuesday's 3-2 derby defeat at home to Macclesfield Town means the trio have already achieved Blues boss Jon McCarthy's pre-season target.

James Alabi turns away in celebration after putting Chester FC ahead against Macclesfield Town(Image: Terry Marland)

He told his young and inexperienced forward line they needed to notch 25 league goals this season to compensate for the departure of the prolific Hannah, who found the net 26 times in all competitions in his sole campaign at Chester.

Alabi has contributed the most goals, with 15 from 33 games, while Akintunde has contributed the fewest, with his return of three in 12 down to the fact that he has been ruled out since the end of October.

Richards, meanwhile, stepped off the bench in midweek to notch his eighth goal on what was his 34th appearance of the league season.

McCarthy has been pleased by the 22-year-old's efforts and is confident he can reach double figures before attempting to kick on again in 2017-18.

"What we got from him last year was not many appearances and hardly any goals," McCarthy said of Richards, who netted five goals in his first full campaign at the club.

"This year, some may want to criticise his attitude and what they may see as petulance, but there's a completely different character there.

"If you look back to some of his performances last year, and some of his behaviour on the pitch, he's learned, developed and matured significantly, as it's completely different now.

"We had a situation where we lost Ross Hannah and I said to James Alabi, Kane Richards and James Akintunde, who we've missed, whose absence has been a blow, 'we need 25 goals from you three because that's what we've lost."

James Akintunde reduces the deficit against Barrow(Image: Terry Marland)

"We've got James Alabi sat on 15 goals, Kane Richards on eight and James Akintunde who scored two in four starts. They've done everything we asked them to do.

"Kane has gone from a bit-part, impact player to somebody who could end the season with 10 goals in the National League. That's significant. If you look at the teams at the bottom of the table they'll have players on four, five, six and seven. We've got one on 15 and another who could get to 10.

"In terms of development as a group, there's one instance of a player who's gone there. Where will he go next year with a bit of work? Will he get to 15-20? What will Akintunde do? Can we hang on to James Alabi? That's what we've got to look at."

Hannah will return to the Blues on Tuesday with Barrow (7.45pm).

But first up for Chester is a trip to Bromley on Saturday (3pm).

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