MORALE among the Chester squad has ‘never been better’, according to joint-manager Anthony Johnson.

Currently in the midst of a three-game winning streak, the Blues have rediscovered the form that has firmly established them as National League North promotion contenders this season.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Darlington, Johnson says the mood is buoyant after recent results.

“It’s all massively positive at the moment,” he said.

“The lads are full of confidence and that’s what winning football matches does to a side. We’ve come through a bit of a sticky patch where we’ve dropped some points with a few draws along the way.

“But things have picked up and now and I’d say the mood here’s never been better.

“We’ve almost got a fully fit squad available and having Akwasi (Asante) back with us has given everyone a lift.”

The prolific Asante marked his return to Chester’s starting XI with a sublime winner in last weekend’s hard-fought 2-1 success against bottom side Bradford Park Avenue.

After toiling against the defensively-compact visitors in the first half, Chester’s quality ultimately came to the fore in the contest.

Johnson believes that Bradford’s cautious approach is symptomatic of the desperate need for points heading into the festive fixture schedule.

He said: “What you get at this stage of the season are teams starting to get cut adrift at the bottom.

“It’s a cliche, but teams do turn up and start to park the bus. You don’t get that at the start of the season when there are plenty of high-scoring games around.

“But at this time of year the tension sets in and teams who have started to struggle start to play much more cautiously.”

Johnson was pleased with his side’s second-half response, a trait he believes will serve them well against other sides that adopt a safety-first approach.

He added: “Most people know we’re a possession-based side, but we’re pragmatic too.

“Bradford frustrated us for 45 minutes but we saw the fruits of our labour from the training ground in the second half.

“We told the players to make the pitch as big as possible and use the patterns of play we work on in training.

“Winning the ball back quickly, using our over-lapping full-backs and switching from defence to attack quickly - we did all those things well.”

Darlington’s solid early-season form form has tailed off in recent weeks with a run of five successive defeats in all competitions.

But Johnson insists the Quakers cannot be underestimated, adding: “We’ve got to guard against complacency.

“Darlington were flying before they drew with Walsall in the FA Cup and were pushing to get into the play-off places.

“As the home team they’ll see this game as an opportunity to get back on track, but we’ve got to give ourselves the best chance by taking the game to them.”