Kaleem Haitham’s injury-time strike gave Chichester all three points in a feisty, seven goal thriller away at Three Bridges with both sides reduced to ten men for the last twenty minutes or so.
- Bacon (34', 62')
- Gayler (44')
- Rowlatt (15')
- Horncastle (59')
- Iordache (76')
- Haitham (91')
There were a number of changes to the starting XI that featured in the Velocity Trophy against Burgess Hill last time out. First choice keeper Steve Mowthorpe was back in goal; Connor Cody, Rob Hutchings and Ben Pashley all returned to join Corey Heath in a more familiar looking defensive line up; and Lloyd Rowlatt and Haitham came back in to support Josh Clack and Gicu Iordache; with Matt Axell and Jamie Horncastle in their customary roles in midfield once again.
The hosts beat Chi in the reverse fixture at Oaklands Park in September, Tom Tolfrey’s penalty the only goal in a game the home side dominated.
Kieron Thorp was in inspired form on that occasion but the Bridges shot stopper was beaten just after the quarter hour mark here when Haitham fed a super pass to Rowlatt. Tadley Bromage tried to get a tackle in but Rowlatt’s clever dink nicked off him and over the outstretched hand of Thorp.
Chi might have taken the lead earlier on when Horncastle rose to meet an Axell corner only to head the ball narrowly over the bar.
Clack had a chance to double the visitors’ lead when he latched on to long goal kick but he slipped as he was just about to pull the trigger and couldn’t keep his attempt down.
Tolfrey then forced Mowthorpe into a smart save in the 30th minute before Charlie Towning, who came on for the injured Giani Ashley, fired off target.
Rowlatt, who was outstanding, dragged a shot wide moments later and Axell had an effort blocked following a slick move involving Clack and Cody.
City’s intensity dipped and a mistake at the back almost gifted Bridges an equaliser but Mowthorpe did well to deny Tolfrey.
The home side did level in the next move however. Pashley got something to a delivery from Lee Hall intended for Tolfrey but Ben Bacon beat Mowthorpe to the ball and guided it past him and into the back of the net.
An opportunity came and went for Horncastle to restore the lead but an inopportune bobble meant he lifted his attempt over.
Haitham then burst into the box but Bridges defenders managed to hook away his cut back.
Chi were caught out on the stroke of half time when an upfield punt from Thorp dropped kindly to Tolfrey. The No9 turned the ball into Curtis Gayler’s path and he thumped it past Mowthorpe at his near post.
Horncastle, a scorer in Chi’s 6-2 Velocity Trophy win at Three Bridges in October, made it 2-2 in the 59th minute with a nice header.
The hosts were back in front though in this see-saw match three minutes later.
Chi failed to clear an in-swinging corner and conceded another after the ball pinged off several heads. This one was played short to Tolfrey who laid it back. And when the cross came over Bacon outjumped Axell and Heath to steer the ball home.
Clack and Bromage then mysteriously got their marching orders.
This was another incident in a game with a number of talking points – the ‘pick your card’ tackle by Bacon on Axell after 12 minutes that somehow went unpunished a standout one.
Both sides pressed on but Chi seemed to benefit more from the space. The introduction of Davidson as the visitors reshuffled the backline helped too.
Three Bridges changed things up as well bringing on former Chi player Tiago Andrade up top.
Bacon almost got his hattrick with an audacious lob but Mowthorpe was equal to it and pedalled back to tip over.
The Chi keeper then played a part in his side’s third goal when he punched clear a corner to Rowlatt. Rowlatt got forward quickly and found Iordache. The Romanian cut into the box and curled the ball into the bottom left hand corner.
Iordache drilled a shot wide in Chi’s next attack and Heath tested Thorp from distance with an effort the keeper did well to get behind.
Rowlatt wasn’t far away from getting in but Thorp was smartly off his line before Davidson headed harmlessly into the Bridges’ keepers gloves.
The winner came in the first minute of stoppage time thanks to Haitham’s composed finish after a measured pass from Iordache.
There was still time for one more chance and Towning might have grabbed a point for the hosts with the last kick of the game but his effort drifted the wrong side of the post.
The two teams have now met four times this season – twice in the Isthmian South East division, once in the group stages of the league cup, and Chi beat Bridges 2-1 at Oaklands Park in their inaugural game in the FA Trophy.
Chichester travel to Guernsey on Saturday 8th February (Kick Off 2pm). The Channel Islanders are in good form at present having won their last three.
Chichester – Mowthorpe, Connor Cody, Hutchings, Axell, Heath, Pashley, Clack, Horncastle, Iordache, Rowlatt, Haitham. Subs – (Davidson, Dunn, Biggs, George Cody)