THERE’S been something special brewing at Chester and victory over Altrincham would move the Blues one step closer to a memorable promotion.

Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley take the Blues to Moss Lane on Sunday, 1.30pm kick-off, for a National League North play-off eliminator, the winners of which will head to York City in the semi-finals.

Since a ball was last kicked in anger by the Blues, who qualified for the end of season lottery after the final standings were calculated on a points-per-game basis. they have lost star striker Akwasi Asante and goalkeeper Russ Griffiths.

But the club pulled together in truly remarkable fashion to raise over £110,000 for next season and another £17,000 to help the Blues participate in the play-offs, something which looked in severe doubt at one stage.

The players have also waived their right to any payment in order to help the club take part in the play-offs, and with the third and final testing done, Chester are ready for the Robins.

“The lads are in fantastic shape,” said joint-boss Johnson. “They’ve come back to training in better shape than we even envisaged and because of that we’ve been able to focus on football.

“The lads are ready and they’ve shown in their commitment to the cause that they want to play.

“For some of the lads this is their full time work, so for them to waive their right to be paid shows the type of people we’ve brought to the club.

“We talk about players in terms of football, but they are human beings and the gestures they’ve made is absolutely remarkable.”

And Johnson was equally effusive when talking about the work of the club’s loyal supporters.

“You are always cautious when trying to raise money because it seems like you are always going to the same well,” continued Johnson.

“The supporters have gone above and beyond, they’ve bought into what we are trying to do with the club and it feels like there is some real momentum.

“Everything that has happened has brought us together. We were a close-knit group anyway, but this has added to that.

“There are buzz words and cliches thrown about regarding playing for the shirt and the badge, but this group have shown exactly what this club means to them.”

While players, staff and fans have pulled together off the pitch, there is still work to be done on it with Altrincham lying in wait.

Chester and visiting Altrincham played out a 1-1 draw nearly 12 months ago with the reverse fixture scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the duo are far from strangers with John Johnston swapping Altrincham for Chester earlier this year and the Blues’ record appearance holder Craig Mahon heading the other way.

Altrincham also have former Chester players Tom Peers, Elliott Durrell and Tony Thompson in their squad, while Jordan Hulme and Josh Hancock have played under Johnson and Morley.

It’s fair to say that there will be few surprises on Sunday afternoon.

“I’ve looked back at their matches, but then we are going back eight or nine months in some cases,” said Johnson. “But if there are two teams that know each other then it’s Altrincham and Chester.

“It’s just about looking at little things that the opposition have done that they feel you might have forgotten about.

“There’s a great respect between the two teams and we will be concentrating on what we’re good at. We want to make sure that we are at our best and see if they can stop us.

“It’s a one game shootout and whoever wins will move on to the next one. They are all being treated as cup finals.”

It’s been over four months since Chester’s last outing and the National League have moved to combat the threat of injury by scrapping extra-time, the game going to penalties if the scores are level after 90 minutes.

“I’m not sure how I feel about that,” said Johnson. “I get why they’ve done it, but it’s not like playing extra-time after playing all season non-stop.

“It will be interesting to see how the game goes and whether it is a tight game like play-off matches often are.”