Marcus Bignot is set to make changes to his Chester side for tonight’s clash with Hartlepool United, with Tom Crawford in line for a first start.

The Blues remain five points adrift of safety after Saturday’s 3-1 defeat against Gateshead but one bright spark was the performance of 18-year-old midfielder Crawford, the Blacon teenager coming off the bench at half-time and impressing his manager.

“That’s my job, I’ve got to lift these players, these boys ahead of Hartlepool,” said Bignot, who is now sceptical about Chester’s hopes of Reece Hall-Johnson returning to the Deva.

“I’ve got to protect some of them, so whether that is a case of not putting some of them out if I’m being honest because I’ve got to protect them.

“There’s a duty to everyone at this club. We go again Tuesday, I’ll pull one or two out to protect them and I’ll throw one or two in.

“We finished with two 18-year-olds on the pitch. James Jones, who has had to be called upon in this period and Tom Crawford, this was always the plan and don’t be surprised to see him start on Tuesday, I think he warranted that after his second-half performance.

“We always had a plan to bring Tom back so it was really pleasing to see them both out on the pitch. Our own, both come through the system and I’m playing two 18-year-olds in what is a massive period for us, and we’re reliant on them. I was hugely pleased with both of them.

“It’s a massive positive. Tom’s got legs, you’ve seen that, he can run and he’s technically good. Him and James Jones, physically are there but technically we’ve got to work with James but he’s willing and able.

“They are going to play an important part for this football club moving forward and I’m really pleased I’ve brought them into the environment.

“We’ve got Ross Hannah to come back, and Jordan Archer, it’ll improve us no doubt.

“We’re limited in what we can do but we've managed to get a bench out, get 16 out of the group and we’ll look forward to Tuesday.”

The 43-year-old admits his 22nd-placed Blues now face ‘16 cup finals’ in a bid to save their season, starting with tonight’s encounter with crisis-club Hartlepool, Craig Harrison’s side currently hovering six points above the relegation zone.

“It’s important we get some more points return from January,” added Bignot.

“Our away form has been more than good enough, if you look at the three recent games.

“Somehow we have to turn that away form into home form. Obviously that hasn’t been the case.”

n Chester have re-arranged their home clash against Dover Athletic for Tuesday, March 6 (7.45pm).