JON MCCARTHY hailed his key defensive trio after Chester recorded a third clean sheet in a row away from home.
The Blues success away at Torquay United was their third consecutive 1-0 away win after victories at Southport and Bromley, and Chester haven’t shipped an away goal since the first-half of their 4-2 defeat at Maidstone in mid-February.
Boss McCarthy hailed the performances of defenders Blaine Hudson, Ryan Astles and match-winner Sam Hughes, before admitting Alex Lynch’s stunning second-half save was ‘massive’ as he denied Jamie Reid from close range.
“Alex’s save was a big moment for us, but Blaine Hudson and Ryan Astles were very good also,” he said.
“Blaine at the beginning of the game, he wins a lot of headers in there and his positioning is excellent. He’s as good a signing as I’ve made here this season, he’s probably the best I made.
“His impact around the club every single day, and when I clip a game he wins more headers than Ryan and Sam (Hughes). You might see more dynamic stuff from them but Blaine is a really important member of the squad so I’m pleased for him to come in and get a clean sheet.
“Sam’s performance was so strong at right-back and then the way he took charge, wanted to win the game, marauding down the right-hand side, and to strike the ball like he did so powerfully.
“He’s got some stick off the lads for celebrating a deflected goal like he did, but I’m sure he’s claiming it!
“It was a big moment and he wanted that goal for us and he made it happen.
“Alex’s save is massive, what a save from him. After Tuesday night (2-1 defeat to Barrow) we backed him, kept him in and he proved us right.
“Hopefully the talk will be of two wins in three now, rather than the way the press have been coming at us. It’s a big effort from the squad, we get the same amount of points for winning at Eastleigh, at Torquay, or when we beat Dover 5-0 or Sutton 4-0.
“Although those can have more credence with everybody you can probably tell how much I’ve enjoyed this one.”
McCarthy lost left-midfielder Evan Horwood to a knee injury in the first-half at Plainmoor and the 30-year-old is likely to miss the rest of the season with ligament damage. However, McCarthy wants to renew Horwood’s contract and was pleased to give Matty Waters his chance after introducing him after 30 minutes.
“I can’t lose Evan’s quality moving forward,” he continued. “I’ve found a good position for him, we need to get his quality in our team. Without him being right on top of things, I was really pleased with the way he got on the ball in that first-half and it’s frustrating for him to pick up a knock and frustrating for him.
“Recognise the effort from Matty Waters, what he’s done and how he’s stepped up since we brought him in against Dover. Look at the development and he’s able to play with a maturity now.
“We don’t get carried away with Matty, if he plays well or not so much. The development is there. Quite rightly Matty had his chances, he was distraught when he gave away a penalty at Dover, we explained to him he needed to be stronger next time he got a chance.
“We were glad to get him a chance at Torquay and I was pleased to get him on and it doesn’t surprise me he played so well. He’s gone again and we’ll see him on the pitch quite a bit more between now and the end of the season.”
McCarthy, who must now prepare his side to tackle York City on Saturday, also reserved praise for striker James Alabi, whose penetrating run forward drew the foul from Myles Anderson which led to the Gulls’ defender being sent-off on the stroke of half-time.
“James Alabi becomes a dangerman for us, he’s scored 15 goals, a massive threat, our key player,” he added.
“Opposition managers look at Alabi and completely focus on him. He was constantly targeted all day and they were knocking him all day, he completely occupies three of their back four all game, and look what it creates as a result.
“The rest of the team needs to take advantage of that. When they slip up and fall asleep, he’s in on goal and he scores if he gets through, that would be 1-0 to us, so rightly they give the decision.
“Recognise what James does and how clever he is to create that moment. Yes, the red card completely changed the game but we earned it and worked hard for it.”
See full story in the Chester Leader