Match Preview: Chester City

Last updated : 09 September 2005 By Rob Davies
Using the very phrase 'top-of-the-table clash' in conjunction with a Notts County game comes as a welcome and refreshing change.

The fact that it is being used in a match between two teams that finished 19th and 20th in League Two last season is nothing short of staggering.

Though it is early days, the arrival of two new managers - the much under-rated Keith Curle at Chester and, ofcourse, Gudjon Thordarson at Notts County - has resulted in a swift upturn of fortunes in the two teams' fortunes.

Curle: Back in business
Chester are barely recogniseable from the side that finished 20th in League Two last campaign, both in personnel and in performances.

Curle - after being appointed with just one game to spare in the last campaign - wasted no time in shipping out the players many felt had badly underacheived in Chester's return season to the Football League.

The former Mansfield boss got rid of over 75% of his playing staff and replaced them with players he believed would be capable of fighting at the right end of the League Two table. So far, he's been proved right.

In fact, had it not been for a shock mid-week defeat at home to Grimsby Town, the Blues would have overtaken the Magpies to claim top spot in the early running.

As it was, that loss meant that Curle's men currently lie in fourth position, three points behind Gudjon's team and one behind fellow-surprise packages Rochdale and Grimsby.

Tomorrow's visitors, though, have picked up a number of impressive results that would suggest they're spell at the top may not be a short-lived one.

1-0 wins at much-fancied Peterborough and Torquay caught the eye, as did last Friday's 3-1 home win over Mansfield, a sweet success for Curle.

Curle brought a number of his former players with him to his new club, defenders Scott McNiven, Dave Artell and Luke Dimech and midfielder Tom Curtis have all been pivotal in the club's early start.

It's further forward where the noticeable names are for Magpies fans, though.
Striker Michael Branch - once tipped as the next big thing at Everton - is one of the few players Curle deemed worth keeping-on from last season, while strike partner Gregg Blundell became the Blues' record signing when he made a £125,000 summer switch from Doncaster. It's winger Ryan Lowe who's been finding the net of late though, scoring four times in the last four matches.

Looking away from the opposition, Thordarson has called on home supporters to turn up in numbers for tomorrow's encounter.

After so much negativity over the past few seasons, it seems the news of the upturn in fortunes has been slow in reaching many Notts supporters - with Meadow Lane attendances actually DOWN on last season. Let's hope that changes tomorrow.

Thordarson has again been handed a near clean-bill of health going into the encounter, with only fully-fledged coach Mike Whitlow missing through a knee injury.

The Icelandic manager - busy looking for fresh blood this week - has named a squad of 19 players, that will ofcourse be narrowed to 16 for tomorrow afternoon.

Young midfielder Chibuzor Chilaka has again been included, though unsettled Shane McFaul (right) misses out. Full-back Dan Martin - on under-21 international duty for last Friday's 1-1 draw at Darlington - is recalled.

Out-of-favour Ruben Zadkovich, yet to play a minute's first-team football this season, is omitted, while young winger Jake Sheriden is expected to be named in the sixteen for the first time in a home fixture.

Gigantic striker Andy White is pushing for a starting slot after scoring as a substitute at Darlington, but Thor may well keep faith with Glynn Hurst and Steve Scoffham in attack.

Matthew Gill, Lewis McMahon and Chris Palmer are fighting for just two spaces in midfield, with the unlucky man set to be included on the bench.

Notts (possible): Pilkington; O'Callaghan, Baudet, Wilson, Ullathorne; Pipe, Edwards, Gill, McMahon; Scoffham, Hurst.

Subs (from): Marshall, Martin, Chilaka, Long, Sheriden, Palmer, Gordon, White.