CHESTER assistant Ross Thorpe has hailed influential midfielder Tom Shaw after he made an instant impact on his return from injury.
The experienced 31-year-old was back in the 16-man squad after a six-week absence with a knee problem for Saturday’s crucial clash with Solihull Moors and came off the bench at half-time to help inspire the Blues to a 1-0 victory, fellow sub Ross Hannah heading home the winner.
Shaw’s drive and energy has been sorely lacking in mifield in recent weeks, and Thorpe acknowledged he helped turn the tide in the Blues’ favour.
“It would be hard to single one person out, and that goes right down to the backroom staff trying to get some of these players fit,” said Thorpe, who was positive about the prospect of striker Jordan Archer coming into contention for the league trip to Halifax Town.
“I keep talking about the medical staff, but to get Tom Shaw back on the pitch made a massive difference and to come on at half-time, he was cold because it was a late change after we saw the full extent of Andy Halls’ injury, for him to go out and put out a Tom Shaw performance says a lot about him.
“Andy has had a couple of stitches in his nose, we’re not sure if it’s broken, the priority was then getting Tom on but he’s had some stiches.
“He gives you experience, knowledge, game understanding and there were a few times in the first-half where it got a bit scrappy for both sides.
“When Tom went in there, what he offers when he isn’t on the ball is a voice on the pitch and that’s massive because as we said, Ryan was having to organise everyone so it takes some of the pressure away from him.
“We were able to bring experience off the bench and add that into the team with Tom in midfield and Ross coming on up front and to make two subs like that, it’s important.”
Craig Mahon was also back on the bench against Solihull and is not far from a return to Marcus Bignot’s side.
“With Mahony being injured, we’ve had no natural width, so we’ve had to tweak it to adjust to that,” Thorpe explained.
“We’ve not seen him (play) since 10 minutes into our second game in charge, he’s the sort of player who makes a difference to a starting XI.
“We’re working week-to-week to see what we’ve got available for Saturday. When we have the likes of Jordan Archer, Harry White back fit, we can start managing the workload of the group. Hopefully they are all back sooner than later, but they have to be back and not at risk of breaking down.”
With clashes with out-of-form Halifax Town, Hartlepool United and two fixtures against struggling Guiseley to follow this week, Thorpe knows this is a ‘massive month’ ahead.
“People are talking about December being a massive month,” he continued.
“Dagenham last 15 minutes was as worse as we’ve been at the club. To get that out of the system, without a game in two weeks waiting to play, the lads have got to take something from that.
“That puts us five points clear of Solihull. We’ve got to enjoy it first and foremost and come back in ready for Fylde.”
The Blues now face a break from league action as they prepare to tackle AFC Fylde at the Deva this weekend in the FA Trophy, with the Coasters taking on Wigan Athletic last night in their FA Cup second round replay.
While Thorpe stresses Chester will be taking the Trophy seriously, he admits National League survival remains their priority between now and the end of April.
“First and foremost it’s all about staying in this division,” he added.
“I don’t think I will get told off for saying that. Next week is a different competition and as a club, we’d like to get as far as we can in the competition.
“Fylde have got a game on Tuesday in the FA Cup and we’re at home, but they will provide a different kind of challenge to what Solihull were.”