Southend United midfielder Ryan Leonard says he is back to his best ahead of Chester’s trip to Roots Hall in the FA Cup on Saturday (3pm) but admits they face a tough test.
Voted player of the year for the Shrimpers last season, 22-year-old Leonard has struggled for form at the start of this campaign but netted in his side’s 2-1 win over Mansfield Town at Field Mill at the weekend.
That win has pushed Phil Brown’s men into the League Two play-off places and Leonard is targeting a winning run for the Essex side, starting with the visit of Steve Burr’s men on Saturday afternoon (3pm).
The hosts enjoyed a run to the fourth round of the competition last season before they eventually crashed out to Premier League side Hull City 2-0 on home turf.
“Our results seem to have gone in runs this season and we want to get a good one going again by beating Chester,” Leonard told the Essex Echo.
“It’s going to be a very difficult game but we had good run in the FA Cup last season and it would be great if we could do the same this year.”
Meanwhile Shrimpers boss Brown revealed he would have liked a tie against one of Essex’s non-league sides in the first round proper, but told the Essex Echo he was nevertheless pleased to be hosting the Blues.
“I would’ve loved it if we had been drawn to play Concord Rangers or East Thurrock United because that would’ve been a great occasion for our area,” said Brown, who managed Hull in the Premier League.
“But I’ve had many battles with Chester during the years and I’m sure this will be another one.”
Blues boss Steve Burr will be without striker Matty Hughes for the clash as he starts the first match of his three game suspension while Michael Kay is also ruled out through suspension, with Matty Brown set to deputise at the heart of defence once more.
Burr is hopeful that winger Craig Mahon can shake off a knock an be fit enough for the trip to Essex while keeper Jon Worsnop should be fit enough to take his place between the sticks after coming through last weekend's 3-2 defeat at Eastleigh in the Vanarama Conference despite a cut on his foot sustained in the shower at his home.
The winners of the tie will take their place in the hat for round two, which will be drawn live on BBC Two on Monday evening (7pm).