Jon McCarthy says he was ‘delighted’ for his players and the supporters after Chester FC snatched a 1-1 draw at Torquay United.
Chester looked set to become the first side to lose to rock-bottom, injury-ravaged and managerless Torquay this season until substitute Ross Hannah flicked in a fine injury-time equaliser.
The last-gasp point stopped the pressure piling on McCarthy after he came under fire from supporters following a 14th home league game without a win.
The Blues boss brought the returning Hannah and player/assistant manager Tom Shaw off the bench after his side trailed to George Dowling’s 13th-minute opener.
And McCarthy, who like his players, wore a black armband after the father of midfielder Paul Turnbull passed away, said: “It’s been a difficult situation created around the football club this week.
“That has put pressure on and made it harder for our players to play. So I needed the stronger ones.
“You know I don’t want to play Tom Shaw, and he’s not really at the (required) level of fitness, but I think it was significant when I was losing Paul Turnbull.
“The players are in there frustrated and it’s me having to explain to them, ‘listen, it will all come together’. They’ve done an unbelievable amount of work and there’s a really strong mentality and closeness in the group.
“I thank the supporters again who have come down and applauded us and who are generally delighted we battled again and got them a point.
“I thank everybody for all the support I’ve received this week, it’s been unbelievable the amount of messages, tweets and emails from people who are recognising exactly what we are doing and really understand the position this football club is in.
“We’re a team with one of lowest budgets in the league and people should recognise when this group gets fit, that’s when you start to enjoy the team.
“When I have everybody fit, we win games. If you look back to last season, it’s the same situation. What I do is manage in difficult circumstances and when I have everybody fit... (last season) 17 games unbeaten, it’s a new club record, eight clean sheets... that stuff shouldn't disappear out of history.
“I just want to people to recognise what the situation is at the club. We don’t have a training ground, we don’t have adequate medical back-up to support the unbelievable work that our people do.
“Our small squad means injuries are more difficult for us but I promise you when I get all these players fit, with some game time under their belt, you’ll see the best Chester team have had.”
Hannah and fellow forwards Nyal Bell and James Akintunde played while not fully match fit.
And now McCarthy has injury doubts over captain John McCombe and fellow centre-back Ryan Astles going into Tuesday’s trip to second-bottom Solihull Moors.
McCombe eventually came off after sustaining a suspected broken nose in the build up to the James Gray goal that appeared to have doubled the advantage for a Torquay team that had lost their previous six matches.
But after the referee consulted one of his assistants it was ruled out.
McCarthy, who gave Turnbull compassionate leave, felt the officials should have gone further, however.
He said: “John McCombe... is that a situation where they have a player sent off?
“Look at the state of his nose. He’s had his nose broken in the box, a horrendous challenge, and it shouldn’t have been allowed to happen.
“I’m thinking it was three fouls. John has been kicked or elbowed in the head and play should get stopped but there’s another two fouls on the edge of the box, when Joycey (Wade Joyce) and Kingsley (James) are pulled back, and it kept going and going, and I couldn’t understand why, and then he (Gray) fires one in the top corner.
“I think they (the officials) realised they made a mistake. It was the right decision in the end but it’s whether something should have been done to their player.”
McCarthy added: “That’s us unbeaten away from home and there’s a real character about us and everybody knows when we get everybody fit it’s a better squad than we’ve ever had and that will bring it with results.”