PREVIEW: Luton Town v Chester
Chester are facing a real a battle to avoid making their return to the Conference last just a single season, writes Mike Simmonds.
The Blues head to Kenilworth Road a mere two points and one place above the relegation zone, with fourth bottom Aldershot still having a game in hand.
They could have been in an even better position, as they were leading Southport 2-0 on Tuesday night, only to see the Sandgrounders come back to steal a point.
Chester have given themselves a chance of survival since the turn of the year, with five wins from 13 in the league, including three draws too.
Prior to that, they had won just four league matches all season which started with five straight defeats as it led to the end of manager Neil Young’s reign in December.
Their upturn in form has come with the appointment of the vastly experienced former Kidderminster boss Steve Burr too, with the 54-year-old masterminding their attempts to pull clear.
Burr has been strengthening his squad, signing Hyde forward Danny Carlton, 30, on loan until the end of the season, although he has scored just once in 25 games this season.
Meanwhile, the club also added Craig Hobson from Grimsby to bolster their attacking options.
The 26-year-old previously played for Stockport and scored his first Chester goal in the midweek draw against Southport.
Winger Brendon Daniels has also returned on non-contract terms after a spell on loan at the Deva Stadium last year.
It’s Chester’s home form that has held them back this term, as they have the second worst record, with a mere three wins from 19 games and a hefty 10 draws.
They have fared better on their travels, taking 21 of the 40 points and most recently tasted victory at both Dartford and Tamworth.
Goalscoring has been a real issue too, with striker Gareth Seddon top scorer with just six, a tally that Matty Taylor managed during his recent one month loan spell from Forest Green Rovers.
Team news: Luton will be without Luke Guttridge, Jonathan Smith and Danny Fitzimons, but have signed Maidstone United wniger Luke Rooney in time to play.
Winger Craig Mahon is likely to be out with a suspected broken collarbone, while Paul Linwood has a shin injury, but should soldier on.
George Horan, Ross Killock and Michael Brown are all injured too.
Top Skrill scorer - Hatters: Andre Gray (25). City: Gareth Seddon (6).
Average crowds: Hatters: 6,903. Chester: 2,239.
Man in the middle: Rob Whitton - has shown 51 yellows and five reds in his 18 Skrill Premier games so far this season.
A good omen for Town this year, refereeing three wins against Dartford at home, plus away to Tamworth and Barnet, while he also officiated Chester’s defeat at Kidderminster.
Took Luton four times at home last season, with Hatters winning twice (4-1 against Macclesfield and 3-0 over Lincoln), plus drawing 1-1 with Nuneaton in the FA Cup and then losing 2-1 to Hyde.
Whitton also officiated Town’s 5-2 hammering at Newport County, taking his overall record while reffing Luton to nine wins, one draw and two defeats.
In charge: Steve Burr - 54-year-old who had spells with Stafford Rangers and Macclesfield in his playing days.
Began his managerial career at Nuneaton Borough as assistant but took over when Brendan Phillips was sacked in 2000.
Left in 2002-03 moving to to Hucknall Town and on to Northwich Victoria, where he was also apppinted England C assistant boss in 2005.
Departed Northwich to take over at Stalybridge Celtic but joined Kidderminster in January 2010, where he won the Conference Manager of the Season last term, despite missing out on promotion.
In November last year, turned down the vacant Forest Green Rovers job, but was removed from his post at Kidderminster on January 7.
Wasn’t out of work for long though as just 11 days later, he was named as new Chester boss until the end of the season with an option to extend the deal into the following campaign.
View from the opposition: Chester boss Steve Burr: “I’ve never known anything quite like it, hopefully our injuries aren’t too serious.
“There is no tougher place to go than Luton. But I’m more concerned about getting players on the park!”
One to watch: Gareth Seddon - 33-year-old striker, who is no stranger to scoring at Kenilworth Road, netting twice for Fleetwood in a 3-1 win during the 2010-11 season.
Started life at Bury, before spells at Northwich, Rushden, Kettering and then settled at Fletwood for three seasons before joining Chester in the summer.
Notched against Luton in the 1-1 draw at the Deva Stadium earlier this season and is joint top scorer with six goals but has only managed two in his last 13 games.
Friendly faces: Shaun Whalley - Hatters winger 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, before parting company with the club at the end of the campaign.
We’ve got form: Town have never lost to Chester at home in their previous four meetings, winning two and drawing two.
Hatters’ biggest win was a 5-2 hammering in the old Division Four back in 1966 when John O’Rourke bagged a hat-trick, plus there were strikes from Tony Read and Graham French.
Last time out: Luton were held to a 1-1 draw by Chester in their last meeting at Kenilworth Road, a League Two clash in September 2008.
Hatters were ahead on 41 minutes through Asa Hall, before Paul McManus levelled on 77 minutes and the visitors finished with 10 men when Kevin Roberts was sent off in the final moments.
Hatters: Conrad Logan, Sol Davis, Harry Worley, Lewis Emanuel, Asa Hall, Claude Gnakpa, Keith Keane, Rossi Jarvis (Ryan Charles 81), Michael Spillane, Marc Pugh, Chris Martin.
Subs not used: Dean Brill, Ian Roper, Ed Asafu-Adjaye, Scott Sinclair.
Referee: Christopher Sarginson.
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