CHESTER City are poised to seal their first signing of the close season today.

Port Vale forward Nathan Lowndes is expected to agree a two-year deal at the Saunders Honda Stadium this morning, kick-starting a busy summer recruitment drive for new City boss Bobby Williamson.

Blues chairman Stephen Vaughan said: 'Nathan Lowndes is due to sign for us and he's the first piece in the jigsaw - a League One striker. This is the calibre of player that we'll be bringing into the club next season.'

Salford-born Lowndes, who celebrates his 30th birthday tomorrow, started his career as a trainee with Leeds United and played briefly for Watford before making a successful move north of the border to turn out for St Johnstone and Livingston.

After a short loan spell with Rotherham in 2002, he joined Plymouth and played under Williamson before being sold to Port Vale in November, 2004.

While Blues fans will be pleased to hear of Lowndes's arrival, they will be disappointed to learn that one of City's major transfer targets - Tranmere Rovers keeper John Achterberg - has slipped through the net.

The 35-year-old Dutchman looked to be on his way out of Prenton Park after failing a medical last week, leaving the path clear for City to sign him as a player/goalkeeping coach.

Blues officials thought the deal was in the bag, but Achterberg yesterday stunned them by making a shock U-turn and agreeing to pen a two-year contract with Tranmere. He will work mainly as a coach for Rovers, but will also be used as a second-choice keeper if he recovers fully from the cruciate ligament injury that saw him fail last week's medical.

Tranmere chairman Lorraine Rogers said: 'We kept talking over the last week and created a new coaching and playing role for John that suits everyone. It is a very good outcome for John, the club and the supporters.'

Undaunted by the Achter-berg setback, Vaughan and Williamson will press on with their summer rebuilding plans.

They are hot on the trail of a quality striker who is currently unsettled at his League Two club.

City have finalised their list of pre-season fixtures. They will take on Raith Rovers on Saturday, July 14 (H), Vauxhall Motors on Saturday, July 21 (A), Morton on Monday, July 23 (H), Droylsden on Saturday, July 28 (A) and Brighton on Saturday, August 4 (H).