RYAN ASTLES admits Chester’s dismal run of home form is playing on his mind ahead of a pivotal double-header.
The Blues’ 3-2 loss at the hands of Sutton United last weekend was their 13th game without victory at the Swansway Chester Stadium, which includes a barren run of eight consecutive home defeats at the back-end of last season, culminating in a 19th-placed finish in the National League.
Although home draws against AFC Fylde and Halifax Town have at least stopped the rot, Saturday’s clash with Sutton felt like a missed opportunity, after the Blues battled back from two-down to draw level at 2-2 and looked the likelier winners until Kieron Cadogan’s 91st minute winner for the visitors.
“It’s annoying for the team as a whole, but for myself, who has been here quite a bit longer, it plays on your mind because of course you want to win at home,” Birkenhead-born Astles said.
“It’s going to come, we proved in the second-half (against Sutton) that the home win will come with performances like that. As soon as we get that first home win, I think we can make this place a fortress.
“It’s frustrating for us all, none more so than the fans. Obviously we want to do it for the fans, when we equalised, that’s the loudest I’ve heard it for a long time.
“We felt there was only one team going to win it so to suffer the sucker-punch at the end, it’s frustrating but that’s football and you move on, get on with it. That home win is not far off.”
The Blues have a rare break from midweek action to prepare for Saturday’s trip to Aldershot Town, prior to a home clash with Macclesfield Town on Bank Holiday Monday, and the centre-half explained: “We’ve got a week off now to focus on training and then two quick games, so everyone needs to recover.
“We’ll put the work in and hopefully next weekend’s results will prove how good we really are.
“We believe every game we’re going to win, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Aldershot is a tough place but that performance against Sutton in the second-half, if we can repeat that we’ll go close.
“We want that next game to come now, you don’t want the wait. We’ll go to Aldershot and hopefully pick up the three points.”
The 23-year-old defender admits the first-half display against Sutton simply ‘wasn’t good enough’ and accepts if there hadn’t been a positive reaction after the interval then the league leaders could have won by ‘five or six’.
“Being 2-0 down and getting it back to 2-2, that would’ve been a good point for us,” he continued.
“At the end, conceding that late on, it’s killed us. The dressing room is obviously down at the moment but we’ve got to build ourselves back up again ahead of next week.
“The first-half wasn’t good enough, you’re right. It wasn’t up to how we know we can perform. The goal on half-time at least gave us a bit of belief and we spoke at half-time about the fact we knew there was at least a point there for us if we wanted it or even go and win it.
“We began to pick up the second balls, that’s something we didn’t do in the first-half. But second-half Paul (Turnbull) and Kingsley (James) were all over them in midfield and we won all the headers, played it wide early, got crosses in early.
“Whatever it was it was a lot better and we’ve got to put that into practice moving onwards now.
“We should’ve taken something out of the game in the end. We had to react, if we’d sat back and not done anything about it, we’d have been beaten four, five, maybe even six. It was a good reaction but I’m disappointed we’ve not come away with anything.”
Sutton controversially saw a Nicky Bailey free-kick chalked off due to Jamie Collins interfering with play in an offside position during the weekend encounter, and Astles was relieved to see the flag eventually go up.
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t even think he was offside in the first place,” he added. “If he was then he’s definitely interfering with play as he’s gone to win the header so the referee is right to give the free-kick.
“We went over and the linesman said he didn’t know if their lad had got a touch or not, but the ref went across and came to a decision and they were both happy with the decision they came to.”