CHESTER joint manager Anthony Johnson believes this weekend’s clash with Brackley will be a good test of the Blues’ title aspirations this season.

On Tuesday evening, Johnson and fellow boss Bernard Morley watched Chester stroll through their encounter with Ashton United to record a 4-1 win and go nine league games unbeaten in a game in which they barely had to break sweat.

The victory, which saw Chester also go sixth in the table, was in stark contrast to Saturday’s bruising encounter with Alfreton which saw the Blues emerge with a last gasp win after a battling performance which saw them come from behind against a physical side determined to make life difficult.

“It’s been two contrasting performances over the last two games but ultimately if someone said you’d get maximum points you’d be delighted,” said Johnson. “We’ve got ourselves into a great position but there’s still one or two little things we know we need to work on.”

Tuesday’s win saw an incisive and clinical display from Chester who never looked like losing grip of the game after taking the lead just 90 seconds from the outset.

“A lot of it is down to the pitch,” said Johnson. “We cut it to a certain length and over water it at times but we want it like that because we want to zip the ball about.

“Our movement in the final third was crisper and there was some lovely stuff played. Generally in this league it’s the better footballing sides that are towards the bottom but the way Bernard and I want to play is finding a way to win – we want to play nice football and I do think we play attractive, forward thinking football but everyone has their own way of doing things.”

Being able to adapt to different styles of play and change your own game accordingly is surely the mark of a team who want to be in the running for promotion come May and Johnson feels he now has a side who can add different facets to their game when needs be.

“Saturday against Brackley will be a yardstick for us,” he said. “I’ve just said to the lads that we don’t want to get carried away because Saturday will help tell us how we are against another different type of opposition.

“They’re not a direct side because they have some very good players, but they can mix it up and if you give them time they can really hurt you. They’ve been in this league for a few years now and they’re always at the top end and of course they won the FA Trophy last season with mainly the same team and a very good manager.

“We are impressed with the lads at the minute and we’re starting to see what they’re all about but Saturday will give us an idea of where we’re really at.”

Crucial to Chester’s good form of late has been a settled side and Johnson feels the joint managers are now picking from a tight group of players who know their jobs.

“We’re only going to get better and more cohesive with all the players coming back,” said Johnson. “Using 13 or 14 of the same players always helps. The understanding that Gary Stopforth and Gary Roberts are getting with playing with each other, the wide players are playing most weeks, the full backs are understanding when to step in with the ball, when to give, when to hold, when to play fowards. We are starting to see now the lads understanding each other’s games.”

With a quarter of the season gone Johnson remains cautious of talking up his side but there is an undoubted satisfaction about the way Chester have recovered from the 8-1 defeat to Blyth Spartans to go on what could be a campaign-defining run.

“When we came here in close season everything Bernard and I said was just words but once the games started we knew you would see the type of team we wanted to put on the pitch,” he added. “In terms of performances I think we’re further ahead of where we wanted to be because we expected it to take a bit longer.

“We’ve had a bad run of injuries and we’re still not out of the woods but as a group the players are buying into what the coaching staff want and our work rate has been relentless.

“If teams want to turn games into a fight we will fight and have a scrap with them and if teams want to go toe to toe and play football we can do that as well.”