JON MCCARTHY insists there are still positions up for grabs as Chester prepare for their final pre-season encounter.

The Blues host Port Vale tomorrow at the Swansway Stadium (3pm) and although boss McCarthy knows the bulk of his likely starting XI for the season opener at Solihull Moors next weekend, the two positions on the wings and Harry White's strike partner are up in the air.

“There’s only 17 players plus the three young lads. I think all fans, the media, you follow enough to see. There’s no secrets and I think my players have a good awareness of where there will be chances,” said McCarthy, who could be without goalkeeper Alex Lynch again with a slight groin injury, trialist goalkeeper Peter Crook likely to be involved.

“There’s still a full week of training and a game so stuff can change that, performances change that. I’m sitting on the fence a little but I think everyone knows where we’re heading.

“I’ve been to Fylde and Solihull this week and I’m pretty certain I know what they’re going to play.

“I’ll stay level, it’s very much work and stability when it begins. There’s a lot of work goes into it, building up and when we get to the end of the week before Solihull, I’ll start my work on Fylde and Halifax, it comes thick and fast.

“I’ve been out to see their games, and we’ll plan training for next week around that.”

James Akintunde and Nyal Bell look set to battle it out to partner White up top, with McCarthy confirming Ross Hannah is unlikely to be involved in tomorrow’s friendly.

“Ross has had a good couple of days in training, he’s not trained with our group but he’s come through and didn’t break down so he’s at the next step,” he continued.

“Is this the time to throw him back into a game? It probably isn’t, but I know he’ll want to play. He’ll train Monday, I might have to get reins on him, he’s played here before and he doesn’t have to have that one game in front of them.

“He’s around everything and seen everything we’re doing tactically. And Gary Lineker never scored goals in the warm-up matches did he, so Ross Hannah hasn’t scored in pre-season but he can go and get a load in that first month!”

The Blues faced a busy period of seven friendlies in 12 days across the past fortnight and although McCarthy admits he would have preferred less travelling for his players, he is delighted with the ‘sharpness’ his first-team squad are now demonstrating in training.

“There’s things I’d look to learn and improve,” he explained. “Some of the travelling left us jaded at times, we could maybe take another look at the distance we’ve travelled.

“But there’s an element of Port Vale and Walsall coming here and doing us a favour on the gate, and we’ve done that for the likes of Runcorn, Witton and Flint. There’s a good element of that and we’re a community club and we should help out.

“What’s pleasing for me is we’ve had three weeks with lots of volume, double sessions, then the games, there’s the odd session where they’ve looked a bit tired, the odd half where we look jaded.

“But I look at these two weeks as the important ones, higher intensity, it looks as sharp as ever. That’s what I was looking for.

“Port Vale for us is our first game of the season, so we can iron out all the little bits. There’s little things for a practice, this week we’re in and everyone knows what’s going to happen.

“That’s the key to it so when we go to Solihull we should hit the ground running and go on the front foot against them.”