After an extraordinary week Chichester City returned to league action with a goalless draw at Hythe Town in the Isthmian South East Division.
A unique draw for the first round that handed Chichester a bye into the second one, propelled their FA Cup fairytale into the national media spotlight.
Players and staff appeared on radio and television, footage went viral on social media, local news organisations shared history making achievements and the football world responded to the club’s proposal to make a donation to an appropriate Bury organisation.
Chi boss Miles Rutherford told The Non League Paper, “It’s a bubble we don’t want to burst. The biggest thing at the moment is trying to get the players back thinking about the league. It’s a hard thing to do. We have to focus on getting some results.”
Coming into the Hythe match Chichester had played more FA Cup games than league ones so far this season. The trip to Kent was a third consecutive weekend on the road for the Sussex club whose recent travels had taken them to Bedfordshire to play Barton Rovers in the FA Trophy and Essex to face Bowers & Pitsea in the FA Cup’s last round of qualifying.
It was an away day Chi almost didn’t make after the players’ bus broke down on route.
— Chichester City FC (@ChiCityFC) October 26, 2019
Rutherford & Co went with the same starting X1 that featured at Bowers and following a delayed kick off it was the hosts that created an early chance when James Rogers, Frannie Collin and the impressive Kiernan Hughes-Mason linked up.
Corey Heath got in a good tackle to deny Ross Ibbertson moments later before a knock on from Rob Hutchings nicked off a Hythe player for the first corner of the match.
Lloyd Rowlatt’s delivery was a little too close to keeper Will Godman.
A timely interception by Ryan Davidson sent Chi on a counter attack six minutes in but Godman was down quickly to deny Josh Clack.
Davidson, at the back stick, got something on the resulting corner, although his downwards header bounced out for a goal kick.
Ibbertson then shot over after the visitors partially cleared their lines before Tom Walmsley skilfully brought down a through ball only for a defender to block his shot.
Walmsley wasn’t far off on the quarter hour mark before Chichester’s best chance came and went following an exchange of passes between Gicu Iordache, Kaleem Haitham, Rowlatt and Clack.
In a frantic five minute spell Steve Mowthorpe pushed away a well-struck free-kick that popped up in front of him; Connor Cody and Heath threw themselves in front of efforts by Tom Carlton and Hughes-Mason; and Jamie Horncastle and Rowlatt had shots blocked at the other end.
Haitham went close with two opportunities, one from distance, and then a stretching Rowlatt couldn’t quite get to Hutchings’ cross from the left.
And on the stroke of half time Clack almost got on the end of Gicu’s delivery.
Collin and Hughes-Mason were involved in Hythe’s first attacks after the restart before Rogers found Collin whose firm header was gathered by Mowthorpe.
In tricky conditions the passing wasn’t always slick. Gicu had an opportunity to pick out Haitham that he spurned and likewise Walmsley should have got Collin away.
Godman was off his line quickly to claim Gicu’s flick and then Clack had a go after good work from the Romanian and Rowlatt.
A super pass from Rowlatt on the hour found an overlapping Hutchings on an overlap who pushed the ball on to Clack but the Chi No9’s drive lifted over the bar.
Danny Divine then whipped in a cross that eluded everyone.
Haitham, the scorer of that fortuitous goal last time out in the FA Cup, stung Godman’s gloves in the 67th minute.
Carlton might have done better in the home side’s next move but shot straight at Mowthorpe.
Scott Jones, who’d replaced Gicu, went close with a trademark header before Haitham forced a smart save out of Godman.
Next Horncastle tried his luck from long range.
Ryan Peake, on for Heath, did well to head clear a Hughes-Mason set-piece with five or so to go.
There were a couple of other scares for Chi in time added on and the visitors might have even grabbed all three points when Clack drilled an attempt narrowly wide and Jones was crowded out looking for a shot on the turn.
Chichester’s unbeaten record on the road though, in an exceptional start to life in Step 4, continues in to a third month.
A large crowd is anticipated at Oaklands Park on Saturday 2nd November as Chi face Ashford United (Kick Off 3pm).
Chichester – Mowthorpe, Davidson, Hutchings, Axell, Cody, Heath, Iordache, Horncastle, Clack, Rowlatt, Haitham. Subs – (Biggs, Dunn, Jones, Peake, Gurau)