Marcus Bignot accepted key first-team departures may have affected his Chester players as they suffered a 20th league defeat of the campaign at Sutton United.

Bignot saw top scorer Ross Hannah head out on-loan to Southport on the eve of the trip to Sutton, with the club needing to get the 31-year-old off their wage bill for the rest of the season due to the financial crisis Chester remain embroiled in.

The Blues are counting the cost of a major budget overreach last summer, and Bignot admitted his players may been distracted by Hannah’s exit as they struggled to get to grips with Paul Doswell’s league leaders, who led 2-0 at the break through Harry Beautyman and Byron Harrison.

“My man-management of these players has been more than I’ve ever had to man-manage during my time in management,” explained Bignot, who witnessed a second-half fightback including goals from James Akintunde and Harry White in Saturday’s 3-2 loss.

“Losing our top scorer, it’s going to affect them. But again, they’ve shown they keep getting back up despite all the knockdowns, they keep getting back up and they keep competing.”

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