STEVE Howson says there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for injury-hit Chester as they seek to re-establish themselves as promotion contenders.

The club’s poor post-Christmas form has yielded just five points from seven National League North fixtures, a sequence that has seen them drop to eighth in the standings.

But as Chester’s injury problems slowly alleviate, experienced centre back Howson insists that the positivity is returning to the Blues squad heading into the final third of campaign.

Reflecting on the slump, he said: “There’s no doubt that injuries really disrupted our rhythm at an important time.

“I think if you’d taken the players we’d lost out of any side in this league, they’d have struggled in the same way.

“Losing strikers like Akwasi (Asante) and Duds (Anthony Dudley) were massive losses because of the jobs they do for us.

“But these two and a few others are now very close to a return and it feels like there’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel going forward."

A closely-contested league table sees the Blues sit just adrift of their play-off rivals on goal difference alone.

Joint-manager Anthony Johnson recently claimed that a fully-fit Chester squad would rank as the best in the division.

Howson concurs and shares his manager’s faith that the club’s players can deliver an immediate return to the National League.

“It’s still in our hands”, he added.

“Even though we've been on this poor run, you look at the table and it's so tight that any team is capable of sneaking into that top seven.

"We still feel we're in a very strong position and that a couple of wins will push us towards the top three.

“There’s more positivity now and it feels like there's a bit more of a buzz round the place.

"Once we're back to having the 18 or 19-man squad the managers have put together here we're a match for anyone in this league.

" I know the quality's here for us to finish this season strongly and that we're more than capable of getting a play-off spot in the games that we've got left."

Having played no game last weekend, the Blues return to league action Kidderminster Harriers on Saturday.

A 3-1 victory over Harriers in September's reverse fixture is fondly recalled by Howson and the 32-year-old has urged his side to replicate that performance at their Worcestershire rivals.

He said: "We were excellent in that game and showed what we're capable of doing to the best sides in this league.

"Kidderminster is probably the toughest places to go and get a result in this league, I think.

"We need to be on our mettle and be prepared to out-work them all over the pitch to put a win on the board."