FINDING A WAY: Anthony Johnson is still confident Chester can win promotion this season. Picture: Rick Matthews
By Alex Narey
Chester co-boss Anthony Johnson believes his side are still firmly in the promotion hunt despite enduring one of the worst runs of his managerial career.
Saturday’s 4-1 win at home to Boston United was the Blues’ first taste of success for six weeks, book-ending a worrying period where the club has been hit by a crippling injury crisis that threatened to derail their charge for a play-off spot.
But a defiant Johnson came out swinging this week, and he believes any side chasing promotion has to have the ability to bounce back from periods of adversity just like his Chester boys appear to be doing.
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“We have not lost belief!” says Johnson. “Any team that finishes in the top seven at our level of football will have two good runs in the season. We had a great run early on, and we know we are going to have to do that again by putting big points on the board over the next 13 games.
“It’s an awful cliche, but every game for us is a cup final because if we go and lose, say four more, then we are definitely out of it. It’s in our hands, and we are confident because we have an experienced group of players who are all positive.”
Johnson and Bernard Morley joined Chester last May, just two weeks after leaving Salford City following a dispute over promotion bonuses. The pair quickly went to work at The Deva Stadium, building a large a squad and becoming many people’s favourites for an instant return to the National League.
And despite losing their third league game 8-1 at Blyth Spartans, the managerial duo oversaw a dramatic change in fortunes during the autumn as they hauled in early leaders Chorley and Bradford Park Avenue.
Three points on their visit to York City on November 13 would have sent the Blues top of National North. But a 0-0 draw was followed by defeat to Leamington, and in the next 11 games they were only able to piece together three wins as they slipped into the clutches of mid-table.
“We don’t like making excuses; that has never been our way,” said Johnson. “And I don’t like talking about injuries because it’s not fair on the players who are playing.
“We have gone from having that opportunity in November to go top of the league to asking some serious questions of ourselves.
“But when you have been as high as we have, you are always trying to be positive. We have a group of players we believe in and we have been through a tough group of games.
“I have never been through an injury crisis like this before, but I have never heard anyone else go through something like this.
“There have been nine or ten players out. It’s been non stop, but these things are there to test you. It isn’t supposed to be easy.”
Meanwhile, Johnson admits he and Morley are loving life at the Deva, highlighting the reception and welcome they continue to receive from the fans.
“We love it here! We came to Chester because of the challenge.
“The club was at its lowest ebb. We could have waited for the next job, but we wanted to test ourselves and that’s what we are doing!
“Believe me, we are right in middle of a challenge here.”