RYAN ASTLES believes that attaining a top-half finish in the National League should be Chester’s minimum aim this season.

The imposing centre-back insists there is enough quality in the Blues squad for a significant improvement on last season’s 19th place finish.

And while manager Jon McCarthy has not set a definitive points target for the Blues, Astles believes finishing 12th or higher should be their baseline goal.

He said: “We haven’t set definite goals for the season ahead just yet, but I’m assuming that this week we’ll sit down as a squad with the manager and set these types of goals among ourselves.

“As far as I’m concerned it has to be a top half finish at least for us as a team, we’re good enough to achieve that.

“With the squad that we’ve got and the way we’ve been playing, aiming for that top half finish should definitely be a minimum target for us next season.”

A promising pre-season for McCarthy’s side culminated in a 1-1 draw with League Two side Port Vale on Saturday.

A strong showing from the Blues saw Astles impress in a resolute defensive display alongside John McCombe against the Valiants.

In truth, Chester were unfortunate not to emerge victorious after matching their higher-league opponents in all departments and creating the better chances.

Reflecting on his side’s latest display, Astles also hailed the impact of goalscorer Nyal Bell who has bolstered Chester’s firepower for the season ahead.

He said: “I thought it was very good and it was the best performance of the pre-season so far. We battled well after giving a goal away, but we scored a great goal ourselves.

“Pre-season has been tough but it’s put us where we want to be heading into the game against Solihull on Saturday.

“It feels like we’ve been playing games almost every day, but it’s obviously worked. I think you can see that in the performance today.

“Everyone is raring to go now and we’ve got a really big week ahead of us in training and getting ready for next week.

“Everyone’s doing well fitness-wise and is getting through 80 or 90 minutes with no problems at all and everyone’s feeling good after games.

“Players like Nyal Bell who’s come in and made a big impact,  have looked very good. He’s scored two unbelievable goals and probably taken all the headlines. So he’s been great.

“But to be fair all of our strikers have looked very good in recent weeks. James Akintunde, Harry White and Ross Hannah when he’s been training and Nathan Brown have all looked sharp.

“Having that kind of depth among our forwards is great and means there is strong competition for starting places and hopefully will mean there’s plenty of goals in our team this season.”

Chester also look set to strengthen their goalkeeping options, with assistant manager Tom Shaw confirming the club are close to the loan capture of Burnley’s Conor Mitchell.

The 21-year-old played 90 minutes for the Blues on Saturday and looked assured throughout.

Likely to be second choice behind Alex Lynch, Shaw is hopeful that a deal can be agreed in time for their league opener against Solihull.

Shaw said: “There are bits and bobs to work out with his parent club but I thought he was excellent.

“I thought he looked very accomplished in all parts of his game. There was some great communication with a back four he has never met before.

“I thought he was terrific and if we can get him to sign then there is another selection headache for us and another sleepless night picking who goes in goal.

”I thought he had a really good debut for Chester.”