THE old maxim goes that a desperate relegation battle is the last place you want to blood youngsters, but when your resources are as stretched as Mark Wright’s those same players can and have to become the cornerstone of your team.
That is certainly the case with Shaun Kelly, the centre-back who is now considered an integral member of Chester’s backline despite this being his first full season as a first-team regular.
So highly does Blues boss Wright rate the 20-year-old, he dropped the in-form Glenn Rule to accommodate Kelly in the vital Easter Monday victory at Accrington Stanley.
That result raised hopes that City could escape the drop. But demotion out of the Football League now looks likely after Saturday’s defeat to Bournemouth left Wright’s men needing to win both of their final games of the season to avoid falling through the trapdoor with Luton Town.
Given that you have to go back to October 2007 for the last time Chester recorded back-to-back successes, it is little wonder the odds are heavily stacked against them.
Kelly, however, is refusing to rule out a maximum points return and insists this is not the time for anyone in City’s wafer-thin squad to start accepting their fate.
“It’s going to be hard to pick ourselves up but it’s got to be done and it’s as simple as that,” said Kelly, who has been nursing a knock before Saturday’s trip to Aldershot.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t get three points on Saturday. We’ve won our last two away while Aldershot do not have anything to play for. We’ve got everything to play for so we’ve got to get down there and do our best for the team, the club and the fans.”
Kelly, a product of the club’s successful youth set-up, was one of City’s better players against a Bournemouth side who proved quite emphatically why they would not be down near the Blues if had it not been for a points deduction.
But the Liverpudlian, mirroring the maturity he displays on the pitch, was critical of his performance.
Kelly said: “I’m glad to be back in the team, but I don’t think I played as well as I could against Bournemouth, not by a long shot. I didn’t do it for the lads as I should have.
“Not many of us got out of the starting blocks and we were outplayed in the end, which was really disappointing.
“We’ve been doing quite well lately, it was only our second defeat in our last seven games, which isn’t bad form.
“It’s hard where we are but we’ve just got to regroup and go out there on Saturday and get the first of the two wins we need.”