BEN Davies – the man City fans love to hate – could be a surprise omission from Shrewsbury Town’s team-sheet for tomorrow’s derby with the Blues.

The former Chester midfielder always receives a hot reception from the supporters who once adored him following his controversial departure from the Deva in 2006.

Davies pledged that he would not leave for a rival club in League Two – only to go back on his word and sign for the Shrews weeks later.

The 27-year-old has been an influential figure for the Shrews this season, but the club captain was surprisingly dropped for Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Bradford City.

He could well be left on the bench again tomorrow, but Shrewsbury’s team is likely to include another ex-Blue – full-back Darren Moss.

Although the Shrews’ 20-goal hitman Grant Holt is ruled out through suspension, Chester boss Mark Wright still expects Paul Simpson’s promotion-chasers to pose a major threat.

He said: “It is a big game because it’s a derby game. In the past, history tells you that there’s been a lot of friction in those games. But what a great way to start your year.

“We’ve got to go down there and be more solid and better than we were against Macclesfield. The boys didn’t turn up and they know that. They’ve got to put it right on the field.”

The postponement of Saturday’s home meeting with Luton means the Blues have not played since their 3-1 defeat at Macclesfield at the end of last month. Forward Kevin Ellison picked up a leg injury in that game but it is hoped he will have recovered in time to feature tomorrow. Eddie Johnson is also nursing a knock, making him a doubt.

Wright admits his team’s preparations have been far from ideal due to the frosty weather which has gripped the UK in the past fortnight. With outdoor pitches unplayable, the team has had to settle for training in sports halls and the gym.

“We haven’t had great preparation,” said Wright. “The pitches have been frozen since just before Christmas to this day, so it’s been very, very difficult to get any shape play. It’s not good preparation but I suppose it could be the same for a lot of sides.

“It’s just been a lot of five-a-sides in gyms because everywhere’s taken or wasn’t open. It’s a reality of life when you’re a lesser club you haven’t got the facilities to go and do everything that you want.”

The Shrews visited the Deva in September and came away with a 1-1 draw, Holt’s penalty cancelling out a well-taken opening goal from Paul McManus. With McManus currently out of the first-team frame, Wright will be looking to Ellison and top-scorer Ryan Lowe – a former Shrewsbury player – to shoulder the goal-scoring burden at the Prostar Stadium.

Shrewsbury’s groundstaff have had the pitch covered from the frost this week and are hopeful it will be playable.