Blues feel they are back at their level
28 September ~ Today sees the reunion of last year's Conference North champions and play-off winners in the Conference Premier. Chester FC and FC Halifax Town met four times last season, twice in the FA Cup and twice in the league, with little between them. Both won one, with the others ending 1-1. There is, however, a favourite for today's fixture. Halifax have won five and drawn two of their opening 11 fixtures, while Chester find themselves in the relegation zone with two wins, two draws and seven defeats.
For Chester fans this early season lack of form is unusual. Since re-forming in 2010 and being placed in the Northern Premier League Division One North, Chester have won every division they've been in, losing only 12 league matches on their way to three consecutive championships and promotions. So losing the first five matches of the season came as something of a shock.
But in a way, this difficult start to the season is exactly what the previous three were all about for Chester. The club is back at a level where to be competitive in the league is an achievement in itself. Winning a match means a lot more when you'd be happy for a draw or think that, realistically, we would do well to get anything out of the match.
Those home truths made the win away at arch-rivals Wrexham all the sweeter. Early goals from Paul Linwood and Lewis Turner gave the Blues their first win of the season and the first league victory at the Racecourse since 1978. A fine record to have set straight in our first season back in non-League's top division, but there is the rest of the campaign to think about.
In an interview a few weeks ago Chester manager Neil Young compared his team and Halifax to highlight the main problem we've had this season: "Halifax have a player called [Dan] Gardner. Last season we had a player called [Antoni] Sarcevic." Both players are ex-Crewe attacking midfielders and, while I'm sure Gardner isn't the only player performing for Halifax, the sale of Sarcevic to Fleetwood has left a gaping hole in our midfield as we struggle to link up with the strikers.
Yet we have a midfield full of grafters with some talent in there too. Halifax may be the favourites today but as the Wrexham match showed, Chester are capable of getting a win, and it'll be something to savour if it comes. Richard Bellis