James Chester: Aston Villa's Wales defender back to his best form

James Chester has now scored 10 goals in a Villa shirt - more than half his overall league career tally
James Chester has now scored 10 goals in a Villa shirt - more than half his overall league career tally

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith was delighted to see Wales international defender James Chester back to his best in their win over Bolton Wanderers.

Chester, 29, caught the eye at both ends of the park, not only scoring Villa's second goal but also producing an acrobatic goal-line clearance to deny Bolton defender Jack Hobbs.

"He says he doesn't feel that he's been at his best this season," said Smith.

"But this was a really accomplished performance from him."

Smith told BBC Sport: "He scored two goals, one that he was unlucky to have disallowed, and stopped another certain one for them, which was worth a goal as well.

"He can feel really pleased with himself. And also in the way he's nurturing young Axel Tuanzebe alongside him."

No JT alongside JC

Chester, who has had to cope this season without the now retired John Terry alongside him, missed Smith's first game in charge through suspension.

That came about as a result of being sent off in the incident which turned the 3-3 draw against Preston, triggering the chain of events that resulted in Steve Bruce's sacking.

But, with Terry now alongside Smith in the Villa dug-out as part of the club's backroom team, Chester was pleased just to play his part in a win that, with barely a third of the season gone, propelled Villa to within five points of the play-off pack.

John Terry and James Chester: From team-mates last season to player and coach this season
John Terry and James Chester: From team-mates last season to player and coach this season

"The three points is the most important thing after two defeats," he said. "You can see which way we're working. Hopefully sooner rather than later we'll put it all together.

"I've not been too pleased with my personal performances this season but I've played over 100 games in two seasons.

"You have to accept that sometimes your performances are going to drop slightly but I've been around long enough to know that I could come through it."

Chester's physical challenge

Since leaving West Bromwich Albion for Villa following Wales' thrilling Euro 2016 campaign, Chester has been kept pretty busy.

After winning seven caps in the space of 31 days to help Wales reach the semi-finals, Chester has played 125 games for club and country - with very few breaks.

  • 2016-17 Villa 46 matches, Wales 7
  • 2017-18 Villa 50 matches, Wales 5
  • 2018-19 Villa 15 matches, Wales 2

And he now embarks on a tough challenge which, over the next eight games leading up to Boxing Day, throws Villa up against teams who can all be considered promotion rivals.

The first of these, at Frank Lampard's Derby County on Saturday, is followed just six days later by Wales' Uefa Nations League home game with Denmark in Cardiff.

Then Villa must undergo stern home tests against Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest and away trips to Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion before captain Chester and co get the luxury of a rare midweek break in mid-December.