2019 was a memorable year for Chichester City but 2020 started with a defeat away to Faversham Town as substitute Osman Proni grabbed an 85th minute winner and Chi finished with ten men.
Solomon Taiwo had given the hosts an unusual lead straight from a corner kick in the 56th minute. It was a short lived advantage though as Chi were level just before the hour mark when defender Ryan Davidson scored his first goal for the club following his move from Pagham.
Lloyd Rowlatt might have nicked a point for the visitors in stoppage time but his effort crashed down off the bar and was hooked clear by Town defenders.
Chi coach Darin Killpartrick said, “There is probably a top four in this league but apart from that I think anyone is capable of beating anyone else.
“I think we’re still just coming back from the hangover of the FA Cup run.
“We’re learning all the time.”
The loss is City’s second in four league games since the FA Cup exit to Tranmere at the start of December – a spell that has generated two points.
Faversham came into the match in a bit of a dip themselves having lost three and drawn two of their previous five. Like Chi, the Kent side, also nicknamed the Lilywhites, last won a league game in November.
When the teams met in the reverse fixture at Oaklands Park in late August Gicu Iordache and Scott Jones goals helped City to a comeback win that was backed up a week later with an impressive victory away at Cray Valley PM, who were league leaders at the time, that sent Chi top of the Isthmian South East division. Chichester then lost to a bottom three club in extraordinary circumstances.
Through September and November Chi continued that history making run in the FA Cup, made an inaugural appearance in the FA Trophy, got through to the third round of the Sussex Senior Cup, played more Velocity Trophy matches and went unbeaten in their four Isthmian South East fixtures in that period.
Iordache was one of two changes to the players that lined up against Burgess Hill last time out – the Romanian coming in for Kaleem Haitham. Connor Cody reclaimed the skipper’s armband and slotted in to a new formation at the back.
The visitors found it difficult to adapt and settle and Lewis Chambers went close with the opening chance in the sixth minute after good work by Ryan Khanye and Taiwo.
Chambers then caused havoc in the box with a long throw that Steve Mowthorpe punched clear for a corner. Taiwo whipped it in but the ball was headed away.
This wouldn’t be the last time Chi had to deal with a Chambers’ throw or a Taiwo delivery.
Faversham probed again but Peake cut out Khanye’s pass.
Michael Hagan, the game’s stand out player, combined nicely with Khayne down the left flank and found Luke Griffiths who was inches away from getting a connection.
Next Mowthorpe denied Hagan with his feet.
At the other end Josh Clack picked out Jones but the No9 had strayed offside.
Rowlatt then broke a tackle and fed Rob Hutchings. Hutchings crossed in to Clack who chested the ball down only for a defender to get to the ball comfortably ahead of Jones.
Mowthorpe was out sharply to intercept a pass intended for Hagan before Faversham keeper Luke Watkins gathered Iordache’s fierce drive at the second attempt in the 15th minute.
First Peake, then Hutchings, dealt with long throws from Chambers before a measured pass by Hutchings set Iordache up but he couldn’t get a shot off.
A minute later Jones spurned a good opportunity dragging his effort wide.
Mr Heron dished out the first yellow card of the match to Hutchings on 32 minutes for a foul on Taiwo who took the free-kick after dusting himself down that Chambers almost got to at the back stick.
Hutchings had a go in the next attack and then Peake made a brilliant tackle to halt Hagan after he burst past Davidson.
Another Chambers throw caused pinball problems in the box. Jamie Maxted got to the ball only to lift his shot over.
Faversham forged decent chances just before the break – Hagan drilled one just wide and then skilfully eluded a challenge and teed up Griffiths who pulled a smart save out of Mowthorpe.
Jones almost put Chi in front against the run of play but he glanced his header wide of the left hand post.
Jamie Horncastle, who got Chichester off to a great start against the Hillians a week ago, wasn’t far off sixty seconds into the second half when he met a Rowlatt set-piece.
Mowthorpe then claimed convincingly a Hagan cross intended for Khanye.
Hutchings gave away a free-kick on the edge of the box but made amends heading clear Taiwo’s delivery.
And it was Taiwo who gave Faversham the lead 10 minutes in, finding the back of the net directly from a corner.
This galvanised a somewhat lacklustre Chi. Hutchings’ jinking run opened up the hosts’ midfield only for Watkins to get down well to his right and make the stop.
The visitors’ next move was slick too and Jones nearly got to Clack’s cross before Davidson equalised in the 60th minute steering Rowlatt’s corner beyond Watkins.
Iordache then fired high and wide in his last contribution as Haitham came on.
Hutchings and Rowlatt were involved once more, although Rowlatt’s shot was off target.
Heath got a timely tackle in to break up a counter attack before Mowthorpe gave Mr Heron a decision to make when he raced out of his area and handled the ball as Hagan threatened. The ref went with a yellow and a free-kick
Taiwo took this but Mowthorpe managed to back-pedal and tip the ball over the bar.
A couple of opportunities came and went for the home side – a Taiwo cross was headed clear and Tom Loynes passed another up after getting in down the right.
Both sides made changes – Rory Biggs and Ben Pashley were sent on for Clack and Heath, and Faversham introduced Proni, Stefan Wright and Robert Lawrence.
Peake dealt capably with a further barrage from Chambers as the game went into the 80th minute and then managed to block a Hagan attempt.
Chambers picked up a yellow for a foul on Biggs as he broke through the middle. Rowlatt took the resulting free-kick but it was too long for Pashley before Chi were caught with a sucker punch in the 85th minute when Proni calmly took the ball round Mowthorpe and tucked it away.
There was drama to come in six minutes of time added on but there would be no equaliser.
Watkins came out in commanding fashion to claim another Rowlatt free-kick. The Chi player then cracked one against the bar but it bounced down and was smuggled away.
Mr Heron brandished three cards in as many minutes of stoppage time as Hutchings was dismissed for a second yellow, Khayne was booked for not retreating and Biggs got a caution for a foul on Wright.
The win means Faversham leapfrog Chi up into fifteenth place in the table.
Chichester have a number of games in hand on sides around them (six in some cases) and are back in action on Tuesday 7th January away at VCD Athletic (Kick Off 7:45pm)
Chichester – Mowthopre, Davidson, Hutchings, Peake, Connor Cody, Heath, Clack, Horncastle, Jones, Rowlatt, Iordache. Subs – (Haitham, Biggs, Pashley, George Cody)