First Team
Isthmian League South East Tue 3 March Oaklands Park
Chichester City
  • Haitham (12', 44')
Ashford United
  • Purcell (11', 30')
  • Stone (14')

Reporter: Owen Leworthy 

Three days after Chichester stunned league leaders Ashford thanks to Lloyd Rowlatt’s 87th winner in a five goal thriller, the scoreline was reversed at Oaklands Park under the floodlights.

There was just the one change to the Chi line up – Ryan Davidson returning to the back four in place of Corey Heath. Captain Connor Cody slotted into a more customary centre half role and new signing Ben Mendoza was named on the bench together with Heath, Emmett Dunn, George Cody and Rory Biggs.

The first half was one full of drama and all the goals.

Matt Axell swung in an early free kick which was claimed by keeper Sam Mott and then Ashford centre back Mo Kamara marauded forward and crossed to Stone but his header took a nick off Cody and Steve Mowthorpe got down quickly to gather.

Jamie Horncastle steered a volley wide after he arrived late in the box to meet a Kaleem Haitham cross before trying his luck from distance but only straight into the gloves of Mott.

Ashford took the lead on 11 minutes when Aaron Condon picked out an unmarked George Purcell in the box who looped his header over Mowthorpe and with help from the under-side of the bar, the ball bounced over the line.

Just sixty seconds later the hosts managed to get back on level terms through top scorer Haitham.

A long Cody ball was latched on to by Rob Hutchings who found Haitham and the winger cut inside from the right flank and bent a delightful curled shot into the far-left corner.

This crazy four-minute spell concluded with the visitors restoring their advantage after poor defending from a corner when Condon swung in another dangerous one for Adrian Stone to nod home at the far post.

The match heated up, as it had on Saturday, and referee Shane Jenkins deemed Jake McIntyre’s tackle on Davidson dangerous and he went into the book as City tempers flared.

The Nuts and Bolts grabbed a two-goal lead on the half hour mark when Purcell was played in down the left and rifled the ball past Mowthorpe, who couldn’t get a strong enough glove on it, for his third goal in the two encounters with Chi.

Kaleem Haitham’s second from the spot against Ashford was his fifth goal in five games (Photo: Daniel Harker)

Just before the break Chichester reduced the arrears when good work from Axell in the box tempted Kamara into again fouling the man he was sent off for challenging just three days earlier. Haitham took responsibility and coolly sent Mott the wrong way.

Chichester reshuffled the pack for the second 45 as Rocks midfielder Mendoza came on for his debut in place of Ryan Peake. Ben Pashley slotted alongside Cody and Hutchings dropped back to left back.

Ashford’s back line stood strong when Scott Jones had an effort on the spin bravely charged down and then Mott was quick off his line to beat Haitham to a through ball.

At the other end Tom O’Connor whipped in a free kick which somehow evaded two Ashford heads.

Stone was then played clean through on goal, but his audacious chip fell straight into the hands of Mowthorpe.

In a half of few chances the final ten minutes sprang into life with City searching for that equaliser.

Rowlatt drilled a low effort just the wrong side of the post, then Cody did well to chest down the ball, but his long-range shot was comfortably gathered by the Nuts and Bolts skipper.

In stoppage time Axell sent in a corner which created havoc in the Ashford box and twice the Oaklands Park faithful and the Chi players felt the ball had crossed the line, but the officials thought otherwise.

Another Axell corner caused problems and this time Jones’ header was blocked on the line with even keeper Mowthorpe thrown forward as Chi desperately looked for the leveller.

In unfamiliar territory Mowthorpe found himself on the ball and skipped past a challenge before he was brought down. Again, Axell delivered an inviting cross which dropped to Rowlatt on the edge of the box but the No10 could only scoop his shot over the bar and the reverse fixture finished with a reverse scoreline in favour of the table toppers.

The result leaves Chichester in seventh still and six points off fifth-placed Herne Bay in the last play-off spot.

Chi welcome Sevenoaks this Saturday (3pm) and then former county league rivals Haywards Heath make the trip to Oaklands on Tuesday 10th March (7:45pm).

Chichester – Mowthorpe, Davidson, Pashley, Axell, C. Cody, Peake, Hutchings, Horncastle, Jones, Rowlatt, Haitham. Subs: (Biggs, Heath, Mendoza, Dunn, G. Cody)