PREVIEW: Chester v Luton Town
After winning promotion to the Skrill Premier, Chester endured a chastening start to life back in the Conference, as they lost their opening five games of the season, writes Mike Simmonds.
It took them until match number four to register their first goal too as after defeats against Barnet, Hereford, Woking, Kidderminster and Forest Green, things looked bleak.
The Blues finally ended that sequence in some style, winning 2-0 at rivals Wrexham, but inconsistency has continued to blight their campaign.
In fact, they have still only won four Skrill Premier matches all season, although have become harder to beat in recent weeks.
Neil Young’s side are currently unbeaten in three games, with their victory coming at rock bottom Hyde, but they have only lost just twice in their previous eight matches.
After Chester City were wound up in the 2009-10 season, it took Chester FC just three years to return to the Conference. They did so in style too as last year in the Conference North, they set several league records for the campaign, including most wins (34), fewest defeats (3), most points (107), most goals scored (103), best goal difference (+71) and also the longest unbeaten streak (30 games).
On going up, Chester added plenty of Football League experience to their squad as the likes of Craig Lindfield, Danny Harrison, Jamie Reed and John Dany all joined.
Their most impressive signature though was enticing Danny Higginbotham to the club.
The former Manchester United youngster has been sold for fees totalling £6.45million during his career and last season playing in the Championship and League One for Ipswich Town and Sheffield United respectively.
He has also been rewarded with a call up to the Gibralter national team too.
Probably the biggest piece of business though was at the exit door for Chester as they sold midfielder Antoni Sarcevic to League Two Fleetwood.
The 21-year-old had been one of the stars of City’s promotion-winning campaign and was tipped to light up the Conference, but opted to move to the Cod Army.
Young has used the loan market to strengthen in recent weeks as Bolton duo Chris Lester (striker) and Conor Wilkinson (midfielder) joined for a month.
Meanwhile, Leeds defender Ross Killock has arrived for a month, while the club also snapped up forward Johnathan Atkinson from Cammell Laird.
Team news: Chester’s Nathan Turner injured his knee in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Hereford and could be out for up to six weeks.
His absence leaves Young short in midfield and the Blues boss may dip into the loan market for a replacement, although Ashley Williams could come back into the frame.
The boss said: “Nathan injured the knee that he had an operation on in the summer.
“It doesn’t look as bad as what we first thought but it could be a medial. If it is then that is four to six weeks.”
Luton are still without Jon Shaw and Danny Fitzsimons, while it is unlikely they will pick Anthony Charles who has just returned to training.
Both Paul Benson and Steve McNulty are expected to be fit despite going off in midweek during the 2-1 win at Braintree.
Top Skrill Premier scorer - City: Gareth Seddon (3). Hatters: Luke Guttridge, Andre Gray (6).
Man in the middle: Darren Handley - already courted controversy with Hatters this season, sending off striker Alex Wall for an alleged stamp in the 2-0 defeat at Wrexham.
Has officiated nine games so far, with 26 yellows and the one red, including taking Chester’s 2-1 home win over Macclesfield.
Took 26 matches last season, showing 93 yellows and five reds, with one of them, Town’s 5-1 defeat at Gateshead, another Hatters’ 2-1 win at Hyde.
In charge: Neil Young - 38-year-old, who had a playing career that took in Tranmere Rovers, Conwy United and Droylsden, before being forced to retire at the age of just 24 due to persistent problems with a dislocated shoulder.
Started his managerial career with Poulton Victoria, in the West Cheshire League, before moving on to be assistant manager at Rhyl FC and Cammell Laird.
Was appointed as manager of Colwyn Bay in September 2008, but left in May 2010 to become newly formed Chester’s first manager, winning promotion from the Northern Premier League Division One North.
Leds his side to the Northern Premier League Premier Division title, before winning the Conference North too and the Cheshire Senior Cup to complete an incredible few years.
View from the opposition: Chester boss Neil Young - “As a manager I have to pinch myself.
“I remember that Luton used to beat Liverpool in the FA Cup regularly on the plastic pitch and now I’m managing against them for a club that we have had three promotions with. I am very proud of that.
“As I have said since the start of the journey, who would have said three years ago that we would be playing Luton Town at the Swansway Chester Stadium?.
“We have got to embrace that and look forward to it.
“You have seen the side and you have seen the squad of players they have got. They have got a fantastic manager who has been there, seen it and done it in John Still.
“But it is about enjoying it and we want to win the game.”
Average home crowd: Chester: 2,304. Luton: 6,452.
One to watch: Gareth Seddon - now 33, the experienced striker started out in the RAF before moving to Bury, where he finished as leading scorer in the 2001-02 season.
Then moved to Northwich Victoria and Rushden & Diamonds, before a spell in the non-leagues, where he made his name at Hyde, bagging 62 goals in 87 appearances over two seasons.
In July 2008 he joined Conference side Kettering Town, scoring 21 goals in his first season, before moving to Fleetwood, where he netted 34 times in 80 games.
Released in May 2012, and joined FC Halifax Town last season, scoring 13 goals until a summer switch to Chester.
Failed to score in his first seven games, but has netted three in his last nine and was on target for Chester in their 2-2 draw with Hereford on Tuesday night.
Friendly faces: Shaun Whalley - made his professional debut for Chester during their 2004-05 League Two campaign when he came on during a 0-0 draw with Cambridge United.
Made five more substitute appearances in total before parting comapany with the club at the end of the season.
We’ve got form: Town have a decent record against Chester, having never lost to them in a league match home or away.
They did go down to a 1-0 defeat at the Deva Stadium in the FA Cup back in 1977, but have won one and drawn three of their four other visits.
Town’s only triumph came in the 1967-68 season when they emerged 3-1 winners thanks to goals from Keith Allen (2) and Ian Buxton.
Last time out: Hatters’ last trip was a 0-0 draw in the 2009-10 Conference season, although the game was expunged from the records as Chester went out of business.
Their last visit that counts was a 2-2 draw back in League Two during the 2008-09 season.
Hatters were 2-0 ahead early on as Chris Martin (22) and Lewis Emanuel (27) scored.
The hosts hit back however, with Ryan Lowe’s penalty on 37 making it 2-1, before Kevin Ellison equalised after 57 minutes.
Hatters: Conrad Logan, Lewis Emanuel (Jake Howells 46), George Beavan, Ian Roper, Keith Keane, Rossi Jarvis, Michael Spillane, Tom Craddock, Ian Henderson, Kevin Gallen, Chris Martin.
Subs not used: Dean Brill, Asa Hall, Claude Gnakpa, Paul McVeigh.
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