HAMZA Bencherif will not allow himself to think York City have turned the corner defensively after the club’s first clean sheet in 17 games.

The Minstermen had not managed a shut-out since a 2-0 home success against Stockport in September before beating bottom-of-the-table North Ferriby by the same scoreline at Bootham Crescent on New Year’s Day.

But the 29-year-old centre back admitted that City need to follow up that disciplined display at the back with a string of similar performances before anybody at the club can be making bold predictions about a new-found solidity.

Bencherif does, nevertheless, believe that a formation, which has seen either Sean McAllister or Daniel Rowe anchor in a deep-lying midfield role during recent times, can provide the platform for greater defensive resilience during 2018.

The former Algeria under-20 international said: “We’ve had two wins now and a clean sheet, which we’ve been wanting for a while and, hopefully, it can be a stepping stone to better things. At the start of the season, we had a few clean sheets, but I felt we were getting away with a few things.

“In other games, we didn’t keep a clean sheet, but defended quite well, so it’s not something you can always control and I’m not setting any targets yet, as I want to see how the whole team performs first in the next couple of games in terms of our shape and defending. We need to keep filling the gaps that were there before and eradicating the mistakes.”

City are set to name the same starting XI for a third consecutive game on Saturday at Darlington – a sequence that has only been replicated once this term, when the Stockport win and victory at Salford in the FA Cup sandwiched a 1-1 home draw with Gainsborough.

Bencherif, meanwhile, believes finding a settle side again can also herald better fortunes during the second half of the campaign, reasoning: “Stability is everything in life, work and football. We’ve got a base we are working on and want to keep that going for as long as possible.”

Despite a likely hostile reception for City’s former Darlington boss Martin Gray this weekend, Bencherif is not preparing for a change in the team’s on-field challenges, other than anticipating a “quite aggressive” approach from striker Reece Styche, whose robust manner bagged him two goals and inspired former club Tamworth to a 3-2 victory at Bootham Crescent in October.

Bencherif, who missed that match due to injury, insisted: “I’m not really expecting anything different than any other game. We’re ready for it and the mood is always nicer when you’re winning, although we haven’t been training any differently or anything like that. We always give everything every day so, when you get the rewards for that, it makes for a good week.”

Nor will the ex-Nottingham Forest trainee be under-estimating the Blackwell Meadows part-timers despite their position two points and two places above the National League North relegation zone.

Bencherif has been a member of City sides that have beaten five of the top-six teams – Salford, Brackley, Spennymoor, Bradford Park Avenue and Blyth - this term, but also figured when the likes of bottom-half outfits Gainsborough, Southport, Telford, Leamington, Boston, FC United of Manchester and Darlington all took points against the North Yorkshire club and he reasoned: “It’s a competitive league and a lot of teams have quality and will do everything they can to win games.

“We’re just concentrating on playing our football and trying to win games. We’ve shown we can beat the teams near the top and we’ve lost to sides that are below us, so we’re not looking at league positions as a reference for what to expect.”

Bencherif also welcomed the loan extension, sanctioned by Bristol Rovers, that will keep his 22-year-old, central-defensive partner Jonny Burn at Bootham Crescent until the end of the season.

“He’s a good, young professional who listens well,” Bencherif declared. “He also has quality on the ball and has settled in really well.”