There won’t have been many people back in August who would have imagined Chi heading into December unbeaten away from home in the Isthmian south east division but they travelled to league leaders Hastings United having done just that in the club’s first ever season at Step 4 of the non-league football pyramid.
Four first half goals in a 30 minute spell the hosts dominated and a penalty after the interval did for that record as the East Sussex side demonstrated their title credentials and condemned Chi to a third successive defeat in all competitions.
Striker Scott Jones returned to the starting XI having missed the mid-week Sussex Senior Cup loss to Lewes; as did defender Ryan Davidson; with captain Connor Cody partnering fellow centre back Corey Heath.
Pilot Field has been a happy hunting ground for Hastings this term – they are yet to drop any points at home, and the U’s, playing in front of their biggest crowd of the campaign, started with intensity.
Keeper Steve Mowthorpe had to have his wits about him as early as the third minute to clear when Hastings hot-shot Davide Rodari threatened to get in.
Daniel Ajakaiye gave Davidson work to do regularly with his probing runs.
The visitors’ back four did well to crowd out Ajakaiye and skipper Sam Adams as the pair linked up nicely and then Davidson made a timely interception to turn the ball out for the first corner of the game.
This came to nothing but Hastings went ahead in the eighth minute through a composed Rodari finish. The Italian-born forward, a product of Inter Milan’s youth set-up, is scoring goals for fun at present and grabbed eight in the extraordinary 12-3 Velocity Trophy win over East Grinstead a week or so ago.
Chi were under the cosh and Adams doubled the hosts’ lead in the 18th minute, steering in Jake Elliott’s cross after the right back beat Jones in a foot race.
Josh Clack then had an effort charged down when Hastings conceded a rare corner.
It was 3-0 at the midpoint. Chichester failed to clear their lines and Ajakaiye made the most of things cracking in a super drive off the woodwork.
Heath hooked away a dangerous delivery before Jones might have pulled one back on the half hour mark with a bullet header but for Louis Rogers’ acrobatic tip-over.
Rodari was at it again five minutes before the break with another decent finish after Lanre Azeez threaded through a slide rule pass.
The away side have shown their mettle recently against Tranmere and Lewes and did anything but capitulate in the second half.
Matt Axell swung in a 47th minute corner that Jones nodded into the box and there was Heath to grab Chi an unlikely life-line with a close range header.
Adams and Rodari caused havoc in the next attack with the U’s leading scorer impeded in the penalty box. Ryan Worrall stepped up and coolly slotted his spot-kick beyond Mowthorpe.
Jones then had an attempt blocked before a burst of pace from Ajakaiye sent him away only to toe-poke the ball wide of the post.
With the hour approaching Azeez charged into the box but his cross was dealt with comfortably enough. Rodari outfoxed Heath next only for his shot to nick off a defender for a corner that Jones headed away.
Ajakaiye fired one off target, Davidson somehow managed to fend off Rodari and get the ball back to Mowthorpe and Heath had another go with a header.
Both teams made changes. Rodari, looking for another hat-trick, was replaced by Ben Pope and James Pool and Sam Beale came on for Adam Lovatt and Elliot.
Chichester brought on Theo Bennetts and George Cody for Axell and Kaleem Haitham.
In the last 15 minutes Jones tried a shot on the turn and Clack drew a fine stop out of Rogers.
Referee Joe McKay gave Adams a stiff talking to for a tackle on Rowlatt and then brandished a yellow card as the U’s captain fouled the same Chi player moments later.
Clack dragged an effort wide, Davidson tried his luck from outside the box but couldn’t keep the ball down and Rogers got his body behind a fierce attempt from George Cody in time added on.
It was Chi’s first loss in the league since a 1-0 defeat to Three Bridges at home in September.
Miles Rutherford’s side are back at Oaklands Park on Saturday 14th December against Guernsey in a slightly earlier kick off time of 2pm.
Chichester – Mowthorpe, Davidson, Hutchings, Axell, Cody, Heath, Clack, Horncastle, Jones, Rowlatt, Haitham. Subs – (Dunn, Bennetts, George Cody, Kelly)