ANTHONY JOHNSON says Chester’s promotion prospects will hinge on their consistency against sides at both ends of the National League North table.

The fourth-placed Blues kick-off a challenging week of fixtures at home to Darlington on Saturday, with away clashes at Gateshead and York City to follow.

With all three of those opponents in and around the play-off spots, the Blues have the chance to further establish themselves near the top of the table.

But joint-manager Johnson insists that maintaining a big-game mentality is essential, irrespective of the opposition.

“Darlington, Gateshead and York are all big games for different reasons,¨ said Johnson.

“When we’ve played teams like Guiseley and Southport recently there was added pressure on them.

“Those games against the teams around you are the ones when you can put a bit of daylight between yourself and the teams around you in the table.

“But the games we’ve played against the likes of Bradford and Leamington - teams in the bottom half of the table who’ve struggled at times - were tough for us.

“We know that on our day we can take a team to the cleaners, but it’s about consistency.

“When you’re playing the teams just above and below you- everyone knows the importance of the result. Sometimes when you’re playing a lower-placed side performances can drop off a bit.

“It’s a sub-concious thing among the players but it can happen. You can’t take any side for granted - so maintaining our performance level is crucial this season.”

Alun Armstrong’s Darlington side head into the clash in solid form and buoyed by a 2-1 midweek victory at Guiseley.

The Quakers have won seven of their last nine league outings, a sequence that has propelled them to sixth in the table

The Blues were downed 2-0 in last month’s reverse fixture in the north east and Johnson believes the resurgent visitors will approach the game with confidence.

He said: “This is the start of a tough week for us. We had a run of games earlier in the season where we played King’s Lynn, Blyth and York back-to-back and we only took two points from those games. Hopefully we come away with a better points return this week.

“I expect Darlington to come here and try to attack us. It should be a different type of test for us compared to the games we’ve played in the last few weeks.

“We relish those types of games and if they do try to play on the front foot and get in behind us then we have the quality to exploit the gaps they leave out there.”

Injured duo Matty Waters and George Waring are Chester’s only absentees for tomorrow’s game.