It has now been nearly two years since Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley took over at Chester. They joined the club from Salford City replacing Marcus Bignot who had led the club to relegation from the National League to the National League North.
In their first full season with Chester FC they finished ninth. This was a disappointing season for the club and the managers, due to only being three points off of the playoff spots for promotion back to the league they just came from.
Over the summer of 2019, the two managers went to work on the signings, bringing in new players to boost the squad with a focus on topping the table and automatically getting promoted. Players such as Russ Griffiths, formerly of Everton under 23’s, and George Glendon who featured for Manchester City’s development squad, were brought in.
So far this approach appears to have worked as Chester are currently sitting in fourth place in the National League North table. Johnson and Morley have recently signed new contracts at the club which takes them through to the end of 2021/22 season.
Initially, it looked like Chester would be battling it out with the teams right at the very top for the title. However, this has stalled somewhat due to the number of draws they’ve had and the number of points they have dropped as a result. Nine times the score has finished level in their games, more than any other side in the league. The most recent of which came on Saturday away to 13th place Leamington.
After the game, Johnson admitted that the title was pretty much out of reach as they are 12 points behind Kings Lynn. The play-offs now seem to be only option left for them to return to the top flight of non-league football.
The fact that they’ve only lost four games should give them the confidence they need to really push for the playoffs. From the teams currently placed from seventh and up, Chester have already played five of them away. They have Kings Lynn, Brackley, Boston and Darlington still to visit.
With 20 games to go before the route to the playoffs begin, Chester will be hoping they can climb to third or second place as that makes for an easier route to the final. The fifth-place team takes on the sixth and the fourth placed team takes on the seventh place. The winner of those two games then goes on to play the second and third place finishers. The winner of the two games will then meet in the Promotion Final at Wembley.
It’s a long and tough race to the finish line if the club wants to return to the National League but one that Johnson and Morley have done before and know a lot about. It’s going to be an exciting second half to the season down at the 1885 Arena for the managerial duo and their squad.