Back to basics: that’s the mantra Chester FC will be adopting through the festive fixtures, says Jon McCarthy.
Coach McCarthy feels a combination of the underwhelming FA Cup defeat to Barnsley, losing Rhys Oates and Matty Hughes, and fatigue has contributed to a dip in performances and a five-game winless run.
Following an unkind 3-0 defeat at Conference Premier leaders Barnet on Saturday, AFC Telford United knocked them out of the FA Trophy on Monday and with the cups now over, the focus reverts to the league.
Chester have three games in a week, starting with Altrincham at home on Boxing Day (3pm), and McCarthy knows how important a positive result could be.
“It’s a strange one because the Barnsley replay was massive for us financially but to not really land any punches on them showed they had seen us and we’d had our chance,” said McCarthy.
“With the big crowd here, we wanted to show a little bit more so some of that momentum we built up was lost and it just put our feet back on the ground again.
“In amongst us not getting a couple of results, there were some signs of us playing at Barnet and I think we were unfortunate at not being able to land a really good result that would have kicked us on, so we’ll go searching for that and it might be Altrincham at home that really kickstarts us again.
“We’ll just keep looking for that next good result and there’s still plenty of belief, yet we still know there’s a couple of missing pieces that will make us better.
“I think we knew and the fans knew we’d have a couple of dips in amongst the highs. With what we’ve got, we knew there was going to be ups and a few little downs but we’re ready for it.
“We’re almost back with the squad we had at the start of the season where we said, look, there’s a certain type of game we need to be winning and these two Altrincham games are key.
“We talked about beating the Braintrees and the Telfords, which we have done in the league.
“We’ll get back to basics with our feet on the ground and see if we can make sure we win these games and we’ll try and build again.
“In terms of league form, if we have a second half of the season that was similar to the first then everybody will be happy.”
Gareth Roberts misses the Boxing Day game and the trip to FC Halifax Town on Sunday (3pm) through suspension and Peter Winn limped off on Monday.
New signing Kane Richards will return having been ineligible for the FA Trophy with manager Steve Burr planning more additions when the transfer window opens.
Burr and McCarthy decided to bring the squad in for training on Christmas Eve to run over final preparations for the Altrincham game.
“It changed with the game on Monday because we were going to train Monday, Tuesday and we’d have just come in on Boxing Day,” McCarthy said following the loss to Telford.
“It might have been a case of training Tuesday but, because we went to extra time, we’ll come in Christmas Eve and we’ll have a session on the pitch to make sure everything’s in place for the big game on Boxing Day.
“We’ll be in early and we’ll get it done, and then we’ll get back to our families.”