Chester’s recent dip in form should be viewed in the context of a successful season to date, says Anthony Johnson.

The Blues head to promotion-chasing rivals Brackley Town on Saturday, looking to end a four-game winless run in the league.

Midweek results saw pacesetters York City open up an eight-point advantage at the summit, with second-placed Chester now battling to claw back the deficit.

Joint-manager Johnson is relishing the challenge and believes all their title rivals will endure similar lean spells this season.

He said: “You look at our recent record and it’s one defeat in our last four. Looking at it another way we’ve had two defeats in 15 league games this season.

“People might be critical of our results in the last few games, but at the start of the season we’d have snatched your hand off to be in this position.

“There’s no negativity at all on our part. We’ve played some great stuff this year, scored plenty of goals along the way and have shown the quality we’ve got at the club.

“York are flying at the moment. They’re working with the biggest budget in the league with the biggest attendances and wage bill so they’re performing as you’d expect.

“But every team has a blip. When injuries mount up or they lose a couple of games, doubts can set in. Now we find ourselves looking to chase the leaders down and that’s not a bad position to be in.

“It’s difficult to be at the top and stay there all season. There’s 27 games to go this season and lots of points still to play for so we’re looking forward to putting as much pressure on as we can.”

Johnson has also defended Chester’s team selection for last weekend’s narrow home defeat to York.

Some Blues fans took to social media after the match to question the omission of George Waring and Danny Elliott from the starting line-up, both of whom had netted in a Cheshire Cup clash at Runcorn four days earlier.

“Going up against the best team in our league, we needed a game plan,” explained Johnson.

“It was the polar opposite of the Blyth game the week before, which was a bit too open at times and we conceded twice.

“The plan was to stifle York, which I think we did for long periods. Ultimately it hasn’t paid off for us and we’ve lost the game,

“Then you hear comments that we were naive to leave Elliott and Waring on the bench. But we felt Matty Hughes, Anthony Dudley and Brad Jackson had the quality to win us the the game.

“We had chances, even late on when we’d brought Elliott and Waring on, but we haven’t taken them, so we learn from it and move on.”

A trip to seventh-placed Brackley represents another stern test for the Blues, with the Northamptonshire club unbeaten at home in more than a year.

Johnson expects an attack-minded approach from Kevin Wilkin’s Saints and is under no illusions about the size of the task ahead

He added: “It’s the hardest place to go in this league. I think they’ve only lost a couple of games there in the last two years and that tells you everything about how confident they are playing there.

“They’re very experienced and hard to break down. They’re savvy going forward and attack with a lot of quality. It’s another tough game for us after playing King’s Lynn and York already this month, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Blues top-scorer Akwasi Asante could return from a groin injury this weekend, with the Dutch striker set for a late fitness test.

Pacesetters York host Kidderminster Harriers tomorrow, with third-placed Farsley Celtic in action at Blyth Spartans.