JOE CLARKE is not surprised that Chester - one of the pre-season title favourites - haven’t had things all their own way this season.

Leamington’s former Wrexham midfielder Clarke, who goes up against The Blues at The Deva tomorrow, said: “It is a very competitive league. There are some big teams in the division which is great for me, the likes of York and Stockport.

“The standard is good and it is a tough division.”

Heading into tomorrow’s game, Chester are three points off seventh place - the final play-off spot - while Leamington are struggling in 17th place, just six points above the drop zone.

“I think it is the first time I have gone back to Chester since my Wrexham days,” said Clarke, who joined Leamington in the summer of 2017 and had spells with Kidderminster, Brackley and Tamworth after leaving The Racecourse.

“I have played them at home a couple of times but it will be good to go up against them again.

“The Chester fans probably won’t remember me but if I do get any boos, I will take it on the chin.

“Chester have had a mixed season as well but it is always good to play them.

“There is still a little bit of rivalry on my side and hopefully we can get a win there.”

Blues joint-manager Anthony Johnson believes his side’s poor away away record has added extra pressure to tomorrow’s home clash.

A 4-0 humbling at Altrincham last time out condemned the Blues to their ninth away defeat of the campaign.

Despite Leamington’s lowly position and poor form, Johnson insists his side will need to be ‘on their mettle’ against the relegation-threatened visitors.

“It’s must-win for us, but so are all the other eight games we’ve got left this season” he said.

“That’s the attitude we’ve got to have home or away in the run-in if we’re going to get where we need to be.

“What happened at Alty is done now, but it’s made the Leamington game even bigger.

“We know what we have to do and there can be no excuses this weekend.

“It’ll be a totally different type of game in terms of opposition, but a massively important game to both teams for different reasons.

“They’re scrapping for their lives in the division now and we’ll have to be on our mettle.

“The performance is secondary for us on Saturday, it’s all about getting the right result and getting back on track.”

Fit-again striker Akwasi Asante (right) could return for the hosts, with Simon Grand and Ben McKenna also in contention after returning to the squad last week.

Scott Burton and George Green both miss out through suspension.

New leaders Stockport County have a tricky test at Brackley Town while second-placed Chorley host Kidderminster.

Tomorrow’s other games: Telford v FC United; Ashton v Bradford PA; Curzon Ashton v Blyth; Hereford v Darlington; Nuneaton v Alfreton; Southport v Boston; Spennymoor v Guiseley; York v Altrincham.