CHELMSFORD City fan and press officer Chris Evans tells the Weekly News why Claret supporters are beginning to smile again after a woeful start to the season:

Levels of optimism are growing for Chelmsford City heading into 2014 under the new Management Team of Mark Hawkes and his assistant, Steve Smith, meaning Clarets fans can finally begin to look upwards in the league table rather than fixing their gaze on the Skrill South relegation places.

Hawkes took control of the First Team at Melbourne Stadium after a spell under previous boss Dean Holdsworth turned sour, culminating in a 6-0 reverse at home to Boreham Wood in early November.

Changes needed to be made to prevent a further slide in fortunes and the arrival of Hawkes from Ryman League neighbours Heybridge Swifts turned the season around, with City unbeaten in December.

Although Chelmsford are still in trouble - Hawkes will be looking over his shoulder to achieve the ultimate aim of Conference safety - each match presents an opportunity to climb towards the top half of a tight division.

However, there was frustration on Saturday when the scheduled local derby at Concord Rangers was called off within an hour of kick-off due to a power failure.

That meant the proposed trip to Bishop's Stortford on New Year's Day continued the festive period and signalled the start of a month which could prove pivotal in the Clarets' campaign.

City face teams at both ends of the table, beginning with Saturday's home game (3:00pm kick-off) against an Ebbsfleet United side containing former Chelmsford players, including Aiden Palmer, Anthony Cook and Billy Bricknell.

Ebbsfleet are currently tucked in behind the main two automatic promotion contenders - Bromley and Eastleigh - and they'll be keen to bounce back into the top tier of non-league football as quickly as they can.

Next up seven days later, Chelmsford entertain Sutton United, also at Melbourne, welcoming back last season's top scorer Jamie Slabber with his new side who also occupy a top-five position.

Depending on their fortunes in those encounters, the next three matches in January could be especially pivotal against some of the sides Chelmsford will be keen to take points from.

Strugglers Whitehawk provide the opposition away from home on Saturday 18th and the rearranged trip over Canvey Way to meet Concord follows three days later. On Saturday 25th, City host bottom club Dorchester Town.

Chelmsford City 2-1 Bishop’s Stortford, Thursday 26th December 2013, Melbourne Stadium, Kick-Off 3:00pm, Skrill South.

Luke Callander's reputation as a potent striker grew still further as his two first-half goals paved the way for an excellent victory against high-flying Stortford.

Those strikes on 14 and 24 minutes built a lead which meant Liam Enver-Marum's late header was merely a consolation.