CHESTER FC fans face an anxious wait to see if the club’s historic homecoming clash on Monday goes ahead.
The Blues are due to welcome Prescot Cables to the Deva Stadium for what will be their first competitive home fixture since re-forming earlier this year.
But there are doubts over whether the Evo-Stik League game will take place due to Cables’ involvement in the FA Cup this Saturday.
If their preliminary round tie at Atherton Collieries ends in a draw, a replay will be required on Tuesday – meaning Monday’s Chester game would have to be postponed at less than 48 hours’ notice as Cables can’t be expected to play twice in two days.
The last-minute switch would spell disappointment for hundreds of Blues supporters, who must hope that the Atherton v Cables tie produces a decisive outcome for either side.
The uncertainty has led to the club having to make emergency contingency plans with the stadium caterers, programme printers and matchday stewards.
Chester manager Neil Young said: “I’m praying for a win for one team because if we don’t play on Monday, we don’t play at home again until the following Wednesday. It’s bizarre but it’s one of those things.
“I’ve learnt very quickly since I’ve been here that you’ve just got to deal with the cards you’re dealt and get on with it.”
FA Cup ties take precedence over league matches, so the Blues would have to postpone Monday’s game and rearrange it for a later date in the season if Atherton and Prescot drew.
Prescot could be asked to play Chester later in the week, but then they would face four matches from Saturday to Saturday – so the move would almost certainly be rejected out of hand.
Chester’s newly-appointed general manager, Pat Cluskey, who began working full-time at the Deva on Monday, admitted it was a “strange” situation to be in, but he added: “We’re planning as if the game is going ahead and what we want is people to come down as early as possible on Monday.
“We’re expecting a massive crowd of 3,000-plus.”
Cluskey, who has spent 11 years working in professional sport for Widnes Vikings and at Headingley Stadium for Leeds Rugby, explained that the club had already made plans for the ‘worst-case’ scenario.
A print run of 2,010 special edition matchday programmes has been put back until Saturday evening and will only go ahead if the match is on. The club’s caterers and stewards have also shown flexibility are will be kept posted on developments.
More fans than originally expected will be allowed into the Deva Stadium on Monday thanks to a ruling from Cheshire West and Chester Council, who this week agreed to increase the ground’s capacity from 2,768 to 3,598.
The decision followed hard work by the club to increase the available number of trained stewards to around 60, more than required for a normal league game.
Kick-off on Monday is at 3pm.