RYAN ASTLES is full of pride for Chester’s outstanding defensive record as the Blues close in on a top five berth.
Jon McCarthy’s side extended their unbeaten league run to seven matches with Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Aldershot Town to move up to seventh in the National League table, just six points off the play-off places.
Big centre-half Astles, partnered by Sam Hughes due to Blaine Hudson’s suspension, inspired Chester to keep a 13th clean sheet in 25 league matches this term, and the 22-year-old was delighted with the way the Blues bounced back from two below-par displays in their FA Trophy ties against Witton Albion.
“It was a great performance, I think we fully deserved to win,” the former Northwich defender said.
“We had two games against Witton where we weren’t up to it and we knew we had to bounce back. We’ve bounced back well and picked up three points.
“We’re not going to give up and we’ll keep pushing. We believe we can get right up there with the big teams in this league.
“It’s another clean sheet to keep our good record going so we must maintain those standards over the next few weeks.
“That’s what we’re here for as defenders, we keep clean sheets and the likes of James and Chappy will get goals at the other end. We’ve got goalscorers in this team and we know we have players who win us games of football in this league.”
Luke George and Evan Horwood have both recently returned from injuries to play a pivotal role in the weekend victory and Astles accepted it’s good to have more players back to bolster the squad ahead of a busy period from now until the end of January.
“We’ve got lads coming back, but they’re not just content to sit on the bench and wait for a chance, they are pushing for starts and adding to the competition,” he added.
“The likes of Evan, Luke, they come back into the team and slot in no problem They all know the system and everyone comes in and we keep playing the same way.”
Jordan Chapell and James Alabi were Chester’s goalscorers at the weekend, and it was Alabi, netting for a ninth time this season, who won the plaudits with a man-of-the-match display.
Astles hailed the 22-year-old frontman for his performance and believes he had Shots centre-halves Callum Reynolds and Will Evans ‘running scared’ from the opening minute.
“Their centre-backs were scared of him from the first minute onwards,” Astles added, before acknowledging the only blemish on Alabi’s copybook was an eighth-minute missed penalty, which rattled the post.
“People don’t get on his back and he’s shown what he can do. They were scared stiff by him and to have someone at this level who does that to opposing defenders is massive.
“It makes a huge difference, the last thing you want is people getting on your back. It doesn’t help.
“James missed a penalty but no one in the crowd had a go at him, he put his head down and within a couple of minutes he’d put a block in in the corner and was getting cheered again.
“People don’t get on our backs and we really do get the benefit from that.”
Next up for the Blues is a trip to Soliull Moors on Boxing Day, who claimed a point in a thrilling 4-4 draw at Dagenham at the weekend.
“Solihull is a good opportunity, but we’ll just keep taking it one game at a time,” Astles added. “Look at what we can do when we take one game at a time, we’ve shown it’s working for us. We want to keep this good run going and move closer to the play-offs.”