Marcus Bignot admits three points from Saturday’s home clash with Hartlepool United will be ‘key’ if Chester are to harbour any hope of staying up.

The Blues are in danger of being cut adrift in the relegation zone, lying 22nd in the National League and now eight points off safety after their 2-0 Boxing Day humbling at the hands of fellow strugglers Guiseley.

Bignot, appointed manager in September, has taken 13 points from his 14 league games in charge and feels the ‘environment created’ around the club – singling out the fans and press for criticism – must change, before accepting his side won’t take their survival fight into the final month of the season if results continue in a similar vein.

“Saturday’s game is massive. Everybody connected with this club – the staff, players, the fans, the press – need to be positive and get behind the group. Because there’s an environment been created that isn’t good, it’s damaging, damaging,” said Bignot, who hauled his side in for extra training yesterday.

“Saturday is key and I’ll look at the end of the month as to our points tally and where we need to be. I don’t look at league tables, it’s a points return at the end and that's never changed.

“We’re going to be in this right down to the final month. You’re probably suggesting it won’t get down to the final month, and if we continue to create this environment that we’re creating, I tend to agree with you that may be the case.

“But like I’ve said, I’ve got to pick players up. Their confidence is shot and we’ve got to find a way. It’s not just since we came in, it’s been embedded in the group, the football club, for a whole calendar year so for me now, it’s about Saturday and it’s another opportunity to get three points.

“I can’t keep tearing shreds off them because if I lose them, what do I replace them with?

“If we get three points Saturday, we’re not too far off where I wanted to be points-wise, so I won’t get too carried away with the table right here, right now.”

Asked whether his players still share his optimisim that Chester can haul themselves out of the bottom four, Bignot replied that he was ‘realistic’ about the situation the club find themselves in, and stressed he cannot afford to ‘lose the players’ at such a crucial period.

“I’m realistic, not optimistic,” explained Bignot, who is set to be without Ross Hannah this weekend after he limped off with a leg injury on Boxing Day.

“My realism is when you’ve got a group of players at a football club, what do you do to get the best out of them.

“Don’t get me wrong, I have to play my part in that and the players do, I get that, but so do other people.

“They’ve not lost the fight, it’s confidence. It’s not fight because I don’t think they are looking that far ahead. They get it, it’s confidence, and that’s been shattered. What we have tried to do is protect a fragile group, because they are fragile, you don’t come into a club in this situation if the players aren’t fragile.When you have that fragile group, it’s important I don’t manage the group the way the environment voices it’s opinion because if I do, we lose them totally.

“You’d then be right, season’s over, so whatever shred of fight or belief they’ve got left in them I’ve got to grab it out of them because they are shot right now. That’s awfully hard because when confidence has gone it takes some way to come back.”