ANTHONY JOHNSON insists that Chester can't afford to "waste" the remainder of the National League North season.

A disappointing 1-1 home draw against Leamington has left the Blues in ninth place in the table, five points adrift of the play-off places with eight games to play.

Joint-bosses Johnson and Bernard Morley already has one eye on next season, but with 24 points still to play for, the former Salford City duo are still striving for a top-seven finish.

“This almost feels like a feel out season for the group where we’re feeling what they’re about,” said Johnson, who takes Chester to Darlington on Saturday. “If we get in the play-offs it’s absolutely amazing but what we don’t want this season to be is a waste.

"We don’t want to waste a year by seeing the next eight games out and finishing 12th, 13th or 14th.

“We need to start putting some foundations down for next year because it doesn’t feel like it did a few months back where things were cohesive and there were patterns. There are patterns now but they’re the wrong type."

One man who won't be involved with the Blues going forward is Nathan Brown after the youngster ended his time at the Swansway Stadium early to join Northern Premier League side Marine, who are managed by former Chester boss Neil Young.

The 20-year-old is a product of the Blues Youth Academy, helping Calum McIntyre's side defeat the likes of Fleetwood and Bolton in the FA Youth Cup.

Brown, who marked his first team debut in the Cheshire Senior Cup against Hyde United by finding the net, scored the 2017/18 goal of the season as he ran more than half the length of the pitch against Bromley before slotting home.

In a statement released after his departure was made public, Brown said: "I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone involved at Chester.

"Had some unbelievable moments at the football club from the youth team, especially those nights in the Youth Cup, then into the first team with my home debut against Tranmere and scoring my first ever league goal against Bromley.

"I'm gutted it didn't work out the way I wanted it to.

"There truly are some amazing people at the club, who at times go unnoticed, but the things the volunteers do is incredible and I have never witnessed anything like it.

"I wish Chester FC all the best for the future."

Ross Thorpe, who worked under Marcus Bignot as Chester assistant manager last season, saluted Brown.

Replying to Brown's statement, Thorpe wrote: "If you typed 'talented and full of ability' into Google it would come up with @Naybrown23 a top lad and top player and a credit to the work the academy at Chester and @CalumMcIntyre.

"Time to go and shine even brighter now Browny, all the best."

Speaking to his new club, Brown said: ''I am delighted to be joining Marine and looking forward to the rest of the season and just playing some games which I haven’t done for a while.''