And what an historic year it’s been for Chi – a title winning promotion from the SCFL premier division followed by a remarkable start to Step 4 life and a fairy tale adventure in the FA Cup as the first club in 70 years to make it to the second round ‘proper’ having started the world’s oldest knockout football competition at the extra-preliminary qualifying stage.
Burgess Hill have had a roller coaster year too. They began the season with a bang, winning 7-2 on the opening day, but then lost eight of their next nine Isthmian South East league matches. Chi were one of the sides to beat the Hillians in that run when first half goals from Lloyd Rowlatt and Scott Jones helped the visitors to a 2-1 win as the Green Elephants Stadium basked in Bank Holiday sunshine. Warren Mfula pulled one back for the hosts from the spot after the break.
Mfula, the league’s second highest goal scorer, has since moved on to Cray Valley PM and there have been wholesale changes at Leylands Park. Jay Lovett came in as manager in early November and the former Plymouth, Brentford and Crawley Town player has turned round the Hillians’ fortunes.
They have picked up wins against Guernsey, Sittingbourne and Faversham and lost only once in the league under Lovett in an impressive spell that puts them in the top five in-form sides.
Chi have won one, lost one and drawn four in their previous six and haven’t played for over a week after fixtures against Ashford and Whitehawk fell foul off the weather.
Manager Miles Rutherford, reflecting on the mood at the club after the FA Cup defeat at Tranmere; the 5-1 league loss away to Hastings; and the goalless draw at home to Guernsey, told the Chichester Post, “We were ok against Guernsey. It was always going to be hard after the FA Cup. We knew that and we are just trying to find our feet again. I think now we’re just starting to get back to normality.
“Hastings were on a different wavelength to us. They are a big club and we always expected that one to be a tough game and we went into it after a really tough week.
“We have to take the positives and the negatives that we have had and build on that.”
Burgess Hill face league leaders Hastings at home on Boxing Day before travelling to Chichester for the game at Oaklands Park on Saturday 28th December (Kick Off 3pm).