Chichester City will be in the hat when the draw takes place on Monday for the third qualifying round of the FA Cup after it finished all square against Hartley Wintney.
The home side, who ply their trade one step above Chi, came into the tie on the back of a 5-1 mid-week win over Fareham Town in the Hampshire Senior Cup, whilst Chichester had seen top spot come and go following their 1-0 defeat to Three Bridges at Oaklands Park on Tuesday.
Speaking before the game Hartley Wintney manager Anthony Millerick said, “I love games like this. I love the hype, the excitement and the occasion. At this level the FA Cup remains special.”
The Hampshire club were one game away from the first round proper of the FA Cup in 2013-14 before losing at home to Daventry Town.
Chichester’s one and only appearance in the first round proper came in 1960-61 when they suffered a heavy defeat to Bristol City and there was one other occasion when, like Hartley, they missed out when a 3-0 defeat to Guildford in a fourth round of qualifying replay sent them out of the cup.
In the fifty odd years or so since, Chichester have generally struggled in the cup. They’ve gone out at the first hurdle eight times in the last nine seasons but this year the club are one of only nineteen to have won three matches to get to this stage and with twelve goals Chi are the second highest scorers left in the competition.
The first five minutes here were something else. Joint top scorer Scott Jones, back in the starting X1 after an injury lay-off, won a corner after barely sixty seconds that the Row keeper Luke Williams punched clear.
The hosts broke swiftly down the right and Ty Smith forced a smart save out of Chi custodian Steve Mowthorpe. The ball came out to Josh Webb whose shot, much to Mowthorpe’s relief, cannoned off the post and into his arms.
Captain Connor Cody then almost picked out Jones before fellow centre back Corey Heath tidied up under pressure from Jack Ball.
Next Gicu Iordache robbed Shane Hollamby and drove forward down the left. A heavy touch however by the Romanian allowed Williams to get to the ball first.
Hartley’s Alex Albert got something but not quite enough on a Matt Drage free-kick.
After this frantic opening spell things settled down. The football wasn’t always pretty and the players had a bobbly pitch basking in September sun to contend with but chances came and went at both ends.
A super piece of skill from Jones bringing a long kick down from Mowthorpe enabled him to get a shot off. This was blocked by a Hartley defender, as was Iordache’s follow up.
Then Ryan Davidson got his body in the way of a fierce effort from close range after a dangerous cross by Mickel Platt.
Platt, who had a real duel with Heath all game, caused trouble again but Heath got a boot on his attempt and Mowthorpe gathered.
Iordache then skewed a shot wide just before the drinks break and Mowthorpe was in the thick of it once more punching clear after a throw-in was flicked on into the box.
In a spell where the hosts looked the more likely to score Ball headed over a Webb cross, Emmett Dunn hooked away another delivery from the Hartley No11 and Mowthorpe came out and took convincingly.
There were opportunities too for Josh Clack and Jones but the former couldn’t keep a shot down and the latter couldn’t keep his header down.
Platt might have done better on 37 minutes but blazed wide before things opened up for Lloyd Rowlatt after a mazy run, only for the midfielder to drill an effort off target.
On the stroke of half time Heath did well to clear a free-kick from Webb following a neat exchange between Hollamby and Sal Abubakar and then Matt Axell got a timely block in to deny Platt. Webb found Ball with the resulting corner, who headed over the bar.
Chichester forged the first opportunity after the interval but Iordache wasn’t able to get to Jones’ delivery.
Then Smith wasn’t far away with a header, latching on to a cross from Webb.
Jones tried desperately to undo the Row back four on 53 minutes but he lost the ball. The hosts countered and Abubakar and Webb created a chance that was cleared but only as far as Tom Bird who pulled a fine stop out of Mowthorpe.
Referee Hugh Gilroy dished out the game’s first yellow card just before the hour mark after a foul on Jones. Axell’s set-piece however didn’t trouble Williams.
It was all Hartley in another spell where it seemed they would go ahead.
First Mowthorpe rose to beat Platt to a high cross from Bird; then Cody blocked a cross by Webb this time; before Heath cleared another one whipped in by Bird and Ball should have done better with his cut back.
For Chi, Jones hit one narrowly wide and Rowlatt went close after nice play from Iordache, Heath and Dunn.
Chi changed it up in the 65th minute with Jimmy Wild replacing Axell.
Matt Drage and Web linked up effectively in the hosts’ next move as Hartley forced a couple of corners.
There were two heart in the mouth moments too for Chi fans when a cross-come-shot from Platt just drifted away from the goal and a freak deflection off Dunn might have caught Mowthorpe out.
Kaleem Haitham came on for Iordache and Jones, who was awarded the Man of the Match, headed not far off with ten to go.
The home side also made changes and substitute Jack French was instrumental in winning a corner that Heath managed to clear.
Clack then found Jones who nodded the ball towards Wild in the box but it was an awkward one and Wild, who scored the opener against Cray Valley last weekend, couldn’t get the kind of purchase on it that he would have liked.
Mr Gilroy waved away 85th minute penalty appeals after French went down as an onrushing Mowthorpe came out to save low down and preserve a third clean sheet in four games.
Davidson got a towering header on the subsequent corner kick that sent Chi surging forward only for Drage to keep his cool with a fine bit of defending just before the final whistle.
The two sides will go again in the replay on Tuesday night under the lights at Oaklands Park (Kick Off 7:45pm).
Chichester – Mowthorpe, Davidson, Hutchings, Axell, Cody, Heath, Clack, Rowlatt, Jones, Dunn, Iordache. Subs: Peake, Biggs, Horncastle, Pashley, Haitham