An Aaron Watson goal from close range five minutes after the interval gave joint table toppers Whyteleafe a narrow victory and condemned Chichester to another league loss in their second Isthmian south east game of the season.
Miles Rutherford & Co made changes to the starting XI that beat Cribbs 3-1 in a come-back FA Cup first qualifying round win mid-week. Scott Jones, who came off the bench at half time to turn things round for the Oaklands Park outfit on that occasion, returned up top. Debutant Devon Fender, signed from Alford, started in midfield with Lloyd Rowlatt and Emmett Dunn in for Matt Axell. Josh Clack and Ethan Prichard provided width down the flanks and Connor Cody moved across to replace the injured Ryan Davidson at right back, with Ben Pashley on the opposite side instead of regular left back Rob Hutching and Corey Heath and Ryan Peake in the heart of the defence.
And Chi had defending to do in an opening 30 minutes or so the hosts dominated.
Leafe forced the first corner of the match in the fourth minute but Prichard managed to block an effort after a smart exchange between Dami Olurunnisomo and skipper Helge Orome.
Sixty seconds later Bentley Graham almost picked out Watson only for keeper Steve Mowthorpe to beat him to the ball and concede a second corner.
Ryan Gondoh had a shot diverted away following neat link up play with Graham and then Pashley and Peake tidied things up when the hosts’ high press squeezed them into an awkward area.
Prichard could have given the visitors the lead six minutes in when a poor back pass gifted him a golden opportunity but keeper Tyler McCarthy got his angles right to deny a goal against the run of play.
Next Gondoh, who shone all game, squandered a chance at the other end shooting rather tamely straight at Mowthorpe.
Rowlatt then skilfully broke a couple of challenges only to misdirect his through ball to Prichard.
Gondoh was at it again in the next attack firing a shot on the turn into Mowthorpe’s midriff.
Prichard broke down the right as Chichester countered only to cross too close to McCarthy who claimed the ball easily enough.
Gondoh then almost caught Mowthorpe out with an attempt from distance following a mix up between the Chi stopper and his captain before Mowthorpe tipped a dipping Jeremie Milambo cross over the bar.
Watson beat the offside trap but not Mowthorpe, who got a strong glove on a fiercely struck effort to turn the ball out for yet another corner.
Chi then won a soft free-kick on the edge of the Leafe penalty box that cannoned off the wall.
On the half hour Olurunnisomo drifted past Pashley and into the area but couldn’t find a teammate with his cut-back.
Then Clack raced on to a super ball from Pashley, got past Milambo but was denied by McCarthy getting off his line quickly.
Pashley headed clear a corner that Chi gave away needlessly; Heath did well to get to the ball ahead of Gondoh and punt it upfield; before giving away a set-piece for a foul on Watson in a dangerous area that might have earned him a yellow card.
Graham took a clever free-kick to Gondoh who couldn’t get a decent connection.
Dunn, Cody and Clack then all combined in a brisk move that ended with the Chi captain attempting a spectacular overhead that didn’t quite come off.
Next Fender found Clack but his delivery deflected safely into McCarthy’s hands.
And on the stroke of half-time Clack curled a free-kick after Prichard was up-ended some 20 yards out round the wall but the wrong side of the post.
Chances came and went for both teams straight after the break.
Cody had a free-kick headed away; Dunn blocked a Gondoh drive; and Mowthorpe held on to Emmanuel Mensah’s shot.
And then five minutes in Watson grabbed what proved to be the winner turning in a measured cross from the right by Olurunnisomo.
Whyteleafe broke again and Gondoh picked out Olurunnisomo only for Fender to make a fine block.
Next Gondoh was clattered over on the edge of the box. He dusted himself down and fired his free-kick into the wall of defenders.
Mowthorpe got out sharply to clear after neat passes between Ricardo Thompson and Gondoh before the best move of the match involving Orome, Mensah, Watson and Thompson ended with Peake blocking another Olurunnisomo delivery.
The Leafe right back picked up the first card for a foul on Fender in the 60th minute but Rowlatt’s set-piece didn’t cause any trouble.
Mowthorpe then collected a Milambo cross at the other end before saving an effort by Gondoh following a quick break.
Chi lost Peake who couldn’t continue after getting a knock earlier so Hutchings came on at left back and Pashley shifted over to partner Heath.
Dunn then headed two Rowlatt corner kicks wide in as many minutes and a Cody shot fizzed off a defender as the visitors searched for an equaliser.
Heath was booked with 20 minutes to go for a heavy tackle and, not for the first time, the set-piece crashed into the wall.
The hosts flashed a shot across goal following a super pass from Orome before Mowthorpe got down well to gather as Hutchings headed back to him and then turned a fierce effort by Watson round his near post.
Sam Ndlovu and Theo Bennetts replaced Fender and Prichard for the last ten.
Dunn then glanced a header off target just before Leafe wasted two opportunities after Watson took too long to shoot and Heath cleared a Gondoh downwards header off the line.
And Jones might have nicked a point late on but couldn’t steer Clack’s cross home sliding in at the back stick.
Gondoh caused further problems in time added on but he stayed on his feet in the box after a run past a few defenders and Chi managed to clear the loose ball.
Rowlatt had a shot blocked when Ndlovu flicked the ball into his path and Dunn lifted an attempt high over the bar just before the final whistle.
Chi are back in FA Cup action on Saturday 3rd October when they welcome Risborough Rangers to Oaklands Park for a second qualifying round tie.
Chichester – Mowthorpe, Cody, Pashley, Dunn, Heath, Peake, Clack, Rowlatt, Jones, Fender, Prichard. Subs – (Bennetts, Hutchings, Ndlovu, Davidson, Overton)