CONOR MITCHELL is ready to battle Alex Lynch for the number one jersey at Chester after being thrown into the starting line-up to face AFC Fylde.
The 21-year-old experienced a whirlwind 24 hours which saw clearance for his loan deal from Burnley to Chester only approved two hours prior to kick-off ahead of Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with the Coasters, pulling out a top-drawer save in the dying minutes to deny Sam Finley a winner.
“I really enjoyed it, it’s been in the pipeline for the past couple of weeks but we managed to push it through for tonight’s game,” he said. “I was a little bit on tenterhooks there for a while, it was touch and go whether it would go through. But I was always preparing myself mentally to be playing in the game and stayed professional and had the mindset I was going to sign and I was ready for that.
“That’s what I’m there for (Finley save), to keep the ball out of the net, so that’s what I’ll try to do. The fans have been brilliant, they were really vocal and although I was disappointed not to keep the clean sheet, I’m happy enough.”
There was surprise amongst Chester’s supporters as they filtered into the stadium when it was announced Mitchell was starting ahead of Alex Lynch, but the Northern Irish goalkeeper feels the competition between the two can only be healthy.
“Competition is vital in every position, not least the goalkeeper position, so the competition between us will be healthy,” he continued.
“Alex has been fantastic as has Dave Felgate and all the coaching staff.
“I’ll push him and he’ll push me, we’re both fighting for that shirt and that can only be a positive for us, the gaffer and the team.
“There’s a great bunch of lads here, they’ve eased me into training and there’s a great staff here who do things the right way so I’ve really enjoyed being here,” he added. “Sometimes coming into a new group you’re a little tentative and there’s a sense of being the new lad at school, but the boys have been top notch with me, settled me in and they’re a great bunch on and off the pitch.
“It’s a completely different environment here to Under 23 football. It’s great exposure for me and I’ve loved every minute of it. We’ve had a good start here against Fylde and we want to build on that now.
“I’ve always tried to organise in-front of me and talk to the defence and if I can make my job any easier then that’s what I’ll do. If I can help the defence by doing so, then that’s excellent.”
On the decision to start with Mitchell, who had impressed in the Blues’ 1-1 friendly draw with Port Vale, McCarthy insisted it was a ‘difficult decision’ with which goalkeeper to punt for, but was also keen to stress the way to win back a place in his line-up is not by ‘sulking’.
“Conor had played against Port Vale, he’s a good keeper and I’ve got two good keepers now,” he explained. “We’ve provided competition now for Lynchy and it was a difficult decision. It’s the first time I’ve had to make those difficult decisions this season, I have to keep players within the group.
“If you don’t play well you come out of the team and if you’re not a good sub, if you want to sulk, then there’s only one way you’ll go and it’s out of the subs spot. You won’t get back in the team by sulking, we’ve had that chat.
“It becomes really personal because I’ve got five completely missing out, they think it’s personal. But it’s not, I’m making 21 decisions, I make an argument for all of them. Then I’ll put my arm round them and explain to them what they’ve got to do to get back in.”
See full story in the Chester Leader