WITH three matches under their belt this week, Chester City's preparations for their Nationwide Conference campaign have made a significant move forward, writes Ian Bedford.
Manager Mark Wright sent teams to Holywell and Denbigh last night, hastily arranged following their 4-1 win at Buckley Town on Monday. Depending on injury reports today, he will decide on who to take to Bangor City tomorrow (3pm).
Although they controlled the f irst half at Buckley, City had only a Dave Cameron penalty to show for their efforts after another newcomer, Ryan Sugden, had been brought down.
Wright made nine changes at half-time and after Buckley had scored a surprise equaliser, City's superior fitness and quality told and further goals followed from Mark Beesley (penalty) and new boys Michael Twiss and Steve Brodie.
A surprise omission was keeper Andy Ralph who had been on trial since training resumed following his release from Tranmere Rovers.
While City were deciding whether to take him on, Stockport County nipped in to offer him a trial, forcing Wright into inviting former Bradford City keeper John Worsnop to take his place. He played in the second half, conceding Chester's only goal from Darren Williams.
Wright was pleased with the Buckley match: 'We played the game after training hard during the day. It's all about fitness at this stage and it was a good workout for us,' he said. 'We have some talented players and now we must f ind the right combination.'
And he added: 'It is going to take time to gel, but we are fitter, bigger and stronger than last season.'
Coach Steve Bleasdale is happy with the standard of fitness. 'We have done the hard work and now we need to get match fitness, but the players are looking sharp already,' he said.
New signing Steve Harkness has had his first full week of training and hasn't been ruled out of playing at least some of tomorrow's match.
* City's squad numbers for the new season: 1 Wayne Brown; 2 Harkness; 3 McIntyre; 4 Carey; 5 Bolland; 6 Hatswell; 7 Blackburn; 8 Kelly; 9 Twiss; 10 Beesley; 11 Brodie; 12 Michael Brown; 14 Carden; 15 Sugden; 16 Lancaster; 17 Ruffer; 19 Cameron; 20 Davies; 21 Whittaker; 22 Woodyatt; 23 Haarhoff; 24 Collins.
* Tickets are still on sale for City's all-ticket matches against Everton next Wednesday (7.30), Manchester United on August 6 and Liverpool on August 13. No tickets will be sold on Wednesday for the Everton game, but the ticket office will stay open until 7pm on Tuesday.
* Athletic Bilbao, whose proposed friendly match at Chester City was cancelled, are based at the Cheshire County Sports Club, Upton, from next Thursday for 10 days. The Spanish club's tour includes a match at Everton.