A super strike from Lloyd Rowlatt late on gave Chichester City a win against table toppers Ashford United in a talking point fuelled game.
- Fagg (12')
- Purcell (50')
- Hutchings (8')
- Rowlatt (87')
It was Chi’s fourth win on the bounce in February – a month impacted by three major storms.
And Storm Jorge played havoc with sports fixtures on an extra day in February because of the leap year.
Even ‘game off’ trended.
The league leaders came into this match on the back of a fine run of form that has seen them lose only once in their last twelve Isthmian South East matches. They’d scored twenty more goals than their nearest rivals Hastings too and fired six past Guernsey last time out.
Miles Rutherford, back in the Chi dugout, with assistant manager Graeme Gee and coach Darin Killpartrick, made one change to the starting XI that beat Hythe – Ryan Peake coming in for Ryan Davidson in the back-line.
It was the Nuts and Bolts who started brightest on the 3G surface at the Homelands Stadium with early chances coming Tom O’Connor and George Purcell’s way.
Tommie Fagg then found Tariq Ossai but his cross just eluded David Smith before Rob Hutchings put the visitors in front against the run of play on eight minutes.
Hutchings, playing in a more advanced role for the second week running, profited from an under-hit header back to keeper Sam Mott and for all Matt Bourne’s attempts to clear on the line Hutchings managed to squeeze the ball in from an acute angle.
Chi’s lead lasted less than five minutes when Fagg met a delivery from the left to steer a header past Steve Mowthorpe.
Moments earlier Smith might have equalised but it was a swing and a miss this time for the Kent team’s top marksman looking for his 24th goal in all competitions.
Purcell struck one over the woodwork next and then set up Smith but the Chi shot-stopper got something on his attempt.
Mowthorpe denied Smith again in the 23rd minute with an excellent back-pedalling save, tipping the ball away for a corner.
Smith and Peake were involved in a real duel and the Nuts and Bolts player drew a foul from the Chichester centre back in a dangerous area. Lee Prescott’s free-kick however, was straight at Mowthorpe.
Purcell forced Mowthorpe into another save low to his left on the half hour mark.
Rowlatt then linked up with Kaleem Haitham but when the cross came in Matt Axell couldn’t quite get to it and the ball was headed out for a corner.
Ben Pashley picked up the first of the game’s eight yellow cards on 37 minutes for a foul on Ossai before Ashford forged three decent opportunities.
Chi had Peake to thank for snuffing out the first of these. The second, a Purcell shot, nicked off Pashley and Mowthorpe clawed Prescott’s set-piece away brilliantly.
The game’s major talking point came on the stroke of half time when referee Kane Dempster brandished a red card to Mo Kamara for a strong tackle on Axell.
Ben Wilson replaced Aaron Condon at the break as the hosts reshuffled and it was the ten-men who took the lead after Chi failed to clear and Purcell pounced.
Wilson and Rowlatt went into the book within the space of a minute giving away free-kicks that first Mott and then Mowthorpe dealt with easily enough.
In a good spell for Chichester Rowlatt crashed a set-piece into the wall; Jamie Horncastle saw an effort blocked; and Mott parried a shot by Hutchings.
The equaliser had been coming and Pashley levelled with his first goal of the season, sweeping the ball beyond Mott after great work from Haitham and Connor Cody.
Rory Biggs was introduced for Pashley, who on a card already had been given a stern talking to by Mr Dempster for another foul on Ossai.
Mowthorpe had a free-kick to gather that moved awkwardly in the swirling wind and then claimed a Wilson cross.
Axell next went close with a set-piece after Jake McIntyre was booked for a challenge on Rowlatt.
Smith and Purcell spurned chances with 15 minutes to go before the ref had a decision to make when Corey Heath caught Fagg. He went with a yellow…much to the displeasure of the Homelands crowd.
Rowlatt then added to this with three minutes to go rifling in a wonderful strike following a slick Chi move.
There was still time for a flurry of more cautions and a bit of defending for Chi to do when they conceded a needless corner deep into stoppage time but Rutherford’s side held out for all three points – they’ve picked up 18 points out of a possible 21 in the last seven games.
The two teams face each other for a second time in four days on Tuesday night at Oaklands Park for Chi’s first match in March.
Chichester – Mowthorpe, Connor Cody, Peake, Heath, Hutchings, Horncastle, Jones, Rowlatt, Haitham, Axell. Subs – (Biggs, Dunn, George Cody)