CHESTER City boss Ian Rush has called for a united effort by players and fans to boost their bid to climb away from the League Two relegation zone.
He has described tomorrow's visit of Notts County as a 'cup final' and believes the supporters can play a big part in the fight to avoid a quick return to the Conference.
'We must go into the game positively and that means the management, players and the supporters,' he said. 'There is too much negativity at the moment. This is like a cup final for us.'
And he has thrown the gauntlet down to the players by telling them no-one was an automatic choice - not even talisman Paul Carden.
The skipper misses tomorrow's must-win clash with Notts County at the Saunders Honda Stadium because of suspension - and he may not get back into the side at Mansfield on Good Friday.
Rush wants a scenario in which he has the luxury of being able to consider having the skipper on the bench - even though Chester have not won this season when Carden has been absent.
'Paul has been a major influence this season but by the time we play at Mansfield next week, it would be good to be in a position where he wouldn't necessarily be an automatic choice.
'If I don't have to hesitate in putting him in the starting line-up, it would mean we hadn't done well against Notts County. I want competition for places and that means I want players not involved to be fully behind the team and not sulking somewhere. This is a wake-up call for everyone.'
Competition increased yesterday when City signed wing-back Carl Regan, who had a loan spell with the club last season from Hull City, and loan defender Andy Nicholas, a regular in the Swindon side which reached the second division play-offs last season. Both will be in the squad tomorrow.
And Rush had another boost when Liverpool agreed to extend the loan of Robbie Foy for another month with the probability he will stay for the rest of the season.
'Liverpool have been brilliant to allow him to stay because they have a lot of injury problems,' he said. 'He links up well with Michael Branch and although he hasn't scored yet, I think it will be a case of get one and he will score a lot.
'The good thing is that he enjoys training with us and wants to be here, which says a lot considering the position we are in at the moment.'
Tomorrow's game looks finely balanced. City have picked up just one point from their last five matches and are now only six points from the trapdoor, while County arrive on the back of a 4-0 defeat at Boston on Wednesday - watched by Chester coach Mark Aizlewood - and a 3-1 home loss to Kidderminster last Saturday.
Said Rush: 'It sounds like Notts County have a similar problem to us with their defending. We have gone from not scoring goals to scoring and from not conceding goals to conceding. We have to find the happy medium.'
Only Kevin Rapley (ham-string) is unavailable tomorrow while Andy Harris is staying at Forest Green for another month. nChester's reserves are at Wrexham next Wednesday in the Pontins Holidays League (2pm).
Discounted tickets for City's game at Darlington on April 2 are available from today. The game is not all-ticket but City supporters can save £2 by buying a ticket in advance for £13 instead of the matchday price of £15. Concessions are £7 and under fives are admitted free.
The ticket office will be open between 10am and 4pm today and from Monday to Thursday next week, and tickets will also be available following tomorrow's game against Notts County.