JAN VAN DEVENTER says Chester have laid the foundations for an assault on the National League Two title.

After a strong first half to the season, the Hare Lane club head into 2019 in second place and just three points adrift of leaders Hull Ionians.

Van Deventer’s side return to action at Leicester Lions on Saturday, with the South African coach calling for a positive start to the new year.

He said: “We have to be pleased with the position we’ve got ourselves into at this point.

“We’ve set standards in the first half of the season that we must now replicate in the coming months to consolidate the progress that we’ve made.

“Among the players and some of the spectators, there’s obviously whispers starting up about a title challenge.

“But as a club it’s important we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves, because there’s still a long, long way to go this season and plenty of rugby still to be played.

“As soon as you take your focus off the next game and get complacent you’ll get found out.

“So for us the immediate priority is to ensure our performances in early January are where they need to be so we can pick up the momentum we had before the Christmas break.”

Chester ran out 24-12 winners in their reverse fixture against the Lions, with tries from Rhodri Parry, Alick Croft and Kyle Joseph clinching victory.

Currently 12th in the table, the Leicester club have struggled for form this term with nine losses from their 16 games to date.

But Van Deventer expects a stern test for his side and says the Lions’ unpredictability means they cannot be underestimated.

“They’ve got a solid side, who can cause teams problems particularly at home”, he added.

“I’m sure they’ll be looking to establish some consistency in the new year and get a bit of revenge after losing at our place in September.

“We’ll need to stay disciplined and be clinical with our attacks.”

Chester will be without Guy Ford, Mike Craven and Sean Green for the clash, though Andy Baton returns from injury in time to make the trip.

Other fixtures: Macclesfield v Fylde; Otley v Sedgley Park; Peterborough Lions v Hull Ionians; Preston Grasshoppers v Huddersfield; Sheffield Tigers v South Leicester; Tynedale v Stourbridge.