MYSTERY surrounds the future of Chester striker Michael Branch after he was involved in an incident with members of the City management yesterday.
The former Everton and Wolves forward left the Deva Stadium prior to training following the incident and a club spokesman said last night that they would probably contact other clubs next week stating Branch was available for transfer or loan.
Branch, who is the Chester club captain, joined the Deva Stadium outfit two seasons ago following a spell with Bradford City.
City travel to the North East today to face play-off-chasing Darlington, in a crucial Coca-Cola League Two clash at the Williamson Stadium.
Chester picked up their first point in six outings on Tuesday night, when they drew 1-1 with Torquay United, and City manager Mark Wright is urging his players to go one step further against Darlington.
"Defensively we were sound against Torquay, but we just needed a little more sharpness up front," he said. "The players are extremely upbeat and the atmosphere at the club is extremely positive."
Wright added: "This is an extremely open league. We should respect all the teams we play but we certainly shouldn't worry about any of them."
Darlington, who drew 4-4 at the Deva in August, are managed by ex-Liverpool striker David Hodgson, and Wright has a tremendous amount of respect for today's opponents.
He said: "They are a big and physical side, and we know that we will be in for quite a game. They have two good wide players, who can punish you if you are not careful, so we must be aware of that threat."
Chris Mackenzie's broken thumb rules him out, so former Liverpool goalkeeper Paul Harrison continues between the sticks.
Midfielder Justin Walker's ankle injury sidelines him. Darlington will be without their influential midfielder Matt Appleby who is suspended.
Chester City (from): Harrison, Brookfield, Regan, Albrighton, McNiven, Ellender, Hessey, Lowe, Drummond, Davies, Curtis, Blundell, Tait, Asamoah, S Vaughan, Richardson, Rutherford, El Kholti.