IAN SHARPS is toasting Chester’s successful 4-4-2 formation.
The Blues assistant boss says the players are now benefiting from a system that has been drilled into them by manager Jon McCarthy the day they returned for pre-season.
Sharps has seen Chester extend their unbeaten run to seven games without conceding a goal after an inconsistent start to the campaign.
And the former Shrewsbury Town, Tranmere Rovers and Rotherham United centre-back has played his part to ensure Chester have demonstrated a never-say-die attitude as a close-knit unit.
“We’ve told them and told them again about the system we want to play and the shape we want to keep,” said Sharps.
“I think we may have bored them at times but after a tough start to the season, it’s sunk in and you can see the confidence growing game by game.
“We’ve got a squad of 20 players and we know that any one of them can now come in and play the system and keep to the structure we’ve got it place.
“And the players must take all the credit for it. They’ve applied themselves on the training pitch and they’ve done it on the pitch.
“They’ve worked hard. We’re a young side but we have a lot of leaders in this group.”
Sharps says the whole team - and not just goalkeeper Liam Roberts and the back four - should take the credit for their impressive defensive record.
He added: “The players at the back, Johnny, Ryan, Blaine, Sam, and Luke have done well. But it’s not just the defenders who defend. It starts from the front and Kane Richards gets through so much hard work, that sometimes goes un-noticed.”
McCarthy has also revealed that he and his players had an unwritten rule about conceding no more than one goal per game.
He said: "We could have conceded a goal in any of our last seven games because teams have had chances, but I've told the lads that they have a rule of being allowed to concede one goal in every game.
"Whether that happens in the first minute of the next game or four games time, I won't mind if it's just one because we'll re-set and we'll try and go in the 90 minutes before the next one is conceded.
"Since the start of the season as a group that's what we agreed, particularly after we conceded three goals in games against Gateshead, Maidstone and Barrow.
"I wanted to put some things in place with our full-backs and centre-halves, as well as the work rate of our wide players and that's what I expect to have.
"I'm not daft because I know we all love the record of seven clean sheets because it gives us something to hang onto, but there have been elements of luck which have happened as well as a lot of hard work and good play."
Teenage Blues centre-half Sam Hughes admitted he had been delighted to play a part in Chester’s impressive run of form.
He said: “We’ve kept seven clean sheets on the bounce and we’ve won five and drawn two, so everybody knows that we’re doing really well at the minute.
“But as obvious as our good form is we need to keep it going and keep it up because we’ve got a number of tough games coming up.
“We’ve got to take this momentum that we’ve built up and this confidence into this next run of games against Southport, York and Macclesfield.
“We spoke about the need to defend well and keep clean sheets at the start of the season. It’s all about our organisation and everybody understanding their job.
“A lot of people pinpoint the work that the back four do and them being responsible for our good defensive record, but it’s the whole team collectively who are keeping these clean sheets because the forwards are pressing the ball and the midfielders are winning tackles.”