Steve Burr has warned players thinking there’s nothing left to play for this season that doing so could cost them a future at the club.
Chester have made rapid strides over the course of the campaign and to be sitting 11th in the table with seven games remaining rates as a significant achievement.
But there were elements of the performance in the grim home defeat to Dartford on Tuesday suggesting a few players might have end-of-season syndrome, something Burr won’t tolerate.
All but a few of the squad are out of contract in the summer and the manager has made it clear performances between now and then will shape his decision on which players will be offered new deals.
Burr said: “I’ve always said the players will determine their destiny and they’ve done well this season to a point.
“You learn about them all the time and if we think that we’re safe and we’ve done enough this season then they’ll have a bit of a rude awakening because you never want to rest on anything, especially in football.
“If the players think they’re in a comfort zone then they certainly won’t be here next season because you can’t afford to be in a comfort zone.
“In football you are as good as your last game or as good as your last result, which was a very poor result for us.”
Chester’s performances over the past month have been erratic: excellent wins at Lincoln City and Torquay United , subdued defeats to Eastleigh and Wrexham, a spirited draw with Grimsby Town on Saturday and then the midweek loss, a result the manager labelled ‘awful’.
“We were all disappointed because we expected to win, everybody in the ground expected us to win and that’s the sort of thing we’ve got to deal with pressure wise so it’s disappointing that it didn’t turn out like that,” said Burr.
“I don’t think we took Dartford for granted or took the result for granted but it just shows you that you’ve got to be at it all the time but sometimes it doesn’t work out like that.
“We changed things around by bringing subs on to try and win the game and I don’t want to use excuses about whether the game on Saturday took it out of us a little bit but we did look leggy.
“I thought we were well in control for most of the game and the result probably doesn’t reflect that but at the end of the day it’s the result and the result’s very poor for us.”
Chester cannot afford another slack showing on Saturday at Alfreton (3pm), who have hauled themselves out of the relegation zone with four-match unbeaten run.
George Thomson remains out but Gareth Roberts should return, particularly with Ibou Touray failing to impress in the veteran’s absence.
Craig Hobson will deputise for Oliver McBurnie should he be unable to rearrange his departure for international duty.