Chichester returned to winning ways with victory over Sevenoaks to get their playoff push back on track.
- Axell (3')
- Rowlatt (29')
- Davidson (78')
- Sawyer (27')
Reporter: Owen Leworthy
Goals from Matt Axell, Lloyd Rowlatt and Ryan Davidson helped Chi brush off midweek defeat to a vengeful Ashford United side and secure a fifth win in six Isthmian South East games.
An entertaining reverse fixture back in early November finished 2-2 with both Kaleem Haitham and Frankie Sawyer bagging a double for their respective sides.
The Oaks came into the match on the back of a dramatic late win over VCD Athletic as the Kent side scored twice in the last five minutes. However, their form has been patchy of late with three consecutive defeats prior to that victory.
Chi, without striker Scott Jones and midfielder Jamie Horncastle, shuffled the pack following the loss to Ashford. Josh Clack returned to the side after a three match suspension, new signing Ben Mendoza made his first start for the club after a debut appearance off the bench during the week, and Rory Biggs lined up in the centre of the park with Axell and Rowlatt.
Chichester began with purpose and a good counter led by Biggs ended with Davidson stinging the gloves of keeper Patrick Lee.
Moments later there was nothing the shot stopper could do when Axell picked up the ball on the edge of the area and curled a fine effort into the top corner that crashed off the underside of the bar and across the line just three minutes in.
Ryan Hayes then whipped a corner into the Chi box. Dan Parkinson rose highest, but he couldn’t get a clean connection on his header.
At the other end Rob Hutchings, returning to a more customary left back role, sent a long awkward ball over the top for Clack to chase which Lee did well to eventually deal with.
Sevenoaks got back on level terms when in the 27th minute Hayes skipped past a challenge from Ben Pashley and crossed to an unchallenged Sawyer who tapped home, for his third goal of the season against City.
The hosts instantly regained the initiative though when Clack fired a free kick at Lee. Lee could only parry the ball and it landed kindly at the feet of Rowlatt who had the simple task of stabbing it in from close range.
Chi looked to further their advantage as Haitham shot over the bar after an interception from Biggs and then Lee did well to claim a Davidson cross.
Just before the break, good centre forward play from Clack set up Haitham who cut back inside on the left wing and bent an effort just the wrong side of the right post.
Mendoza and Clack linked up for the first chance of the second half when Clack was played forward and drove at the defence. The striker tried to roll the ball under an on-rushing Lee on the stretch only for the Sevenoaks keeper to block his effort.
Hayes proved a threat from crossing positions and again tested the Chichester back-line with another dangerous ball which Steve Mowthorpe punched clear back out to Hayes to deliver again. Jack Miles headed the ball in but was flagged offside.
Mendoza dazzled the Oaklands Park crowd as he danced past a couple of Sevenoaks challenges and was then brought down on the right wing as the Rocks loanee showed what he is capable of. Rowlatt sent the free kick in and the ball ricocheted to Clack who managed to dig out a shot which Lee got down quickly to save but Davidson slotted the loose ball into the back of the net to give the hosts a comfortable two-goal lead with just over 10 minutes to play.
Chichester could have gone further in front when substitute Gicu Iordache had a shot charged down, then Rowlatt fizzed in a low cross which had to be palmed away by Lee and on the rebound Clack could only fire at a Sevenoaks defender.
Substitute Emmett Dunn next dinked a ball over the top for Clack. He got a shot off which Lee saved with his feet, only for the ball to drop fortuitously to Iordache who mishit his shot wide of the target.
In the closing minutes the home side went close again when a Davidson throw-in from the right made its way to Rowlatt who struck the ball goal-ward first time and forced Lee into making one more stop.
The victory sees Chi move up a place in the table to sixth, just six points off Herne Bay but with three games in hand.
Chichester welcome old county league rivals Haywards Heath to Oaklands Park on Tuesday 10th March (Kick Off 7:45pm) and then travel to Kent to face Sittingbourne on Saturday 14th March (Kick Off: 3pm).
Chichester – Mowthorpe, Davidson, Hutchings, Axell, Cody, Pashley, Clack, Biggs, Mendoza, Rowlatt, Haitham. Subs – (Dunn, Heath, Peake, Iordache, Ender).