WHILE Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Barnet was yet another gut-wrenching setback for Simon Davies and his struggling squad, the most devastating blows to Chester City’s survival hopes were landed away from Underhill.
Before the dust had settled on the Blues’ latest setback, news of results from other matches in League Two quickly began to filter through... and from Chester’s perspective, it was very definitely bad news.
At Valley Parade, the prolific Michael Boulding hit the winner for Mansfield Town in a 2-1 victory at Bradford City, while two goals in the final 10 minutes were enough for Macclesfield Town to see off Shrewsbury by the same score at Field Mill.
Over in North Wales, rock bottom Wrexham wrapped up a 2-1 win over Bury at the same time as Notts County were battling their way to an unexpected 0-0 draw away to promotion-chasing Peterborough United.
In short, almost every single one of Chester’s relegation rivals had taken something – be it one point or three – from the weekend, while the Blues were left empty-handed.
It was a galling feeling for City’s rookie boss Davies, who is still searching for his first win after four attempts.
He is under no illusions as to the size of the task facing him.
Davies said yesterday: “I’ve set the team a target of staying up. That’s all that matters right now. Whether we do it in the next two games or the next eight games, we know where we’re at.
“We know the job in hand and the task we’ve got and we need to stay in the league. We can pussyfoot around it all day long, but that’s what we need to do and as long as we stay in the league, then me or someone else can build for next season because the squad of players is three or four bodies away from being in the play-offs.”
But, as Davies knows, talk of next season’s play-offs is premature when the Blues still have a job to do to remain in this division.
With eight games of the season remaining, City still need three wins and a draw to reach the magical 50-point mark which usually guarantees safety.
Facing them is a tough run-in, with the majority of games against sides from the upper reaches of the table – so Davies and co very definitely have their work cut out.
Davies is sure to be pin-pointing the fixtures against Lincoln City (April 12), Shrewsbury Town (April 26) and Macclesfield Town (May 3) as games Chester can’t afford to lose. But the Shrewsbury and Macclesfield clashes are the last two games of the season, so the Blues can’t afford to be going into them still in desperate need of survival points.
The noises coming from the club this week – with Davies insisting his senior players are united, fired up and ready to turn a blind eye to minor injuries in order to aid the club’s fight – are encouraging and long overdue.
If the Blues can get their most experienced players on the park for each of those eight games between now and May 3, then they have every chance of staying up.
If they can’t, then worrying times lie ahead.