Hat-trick hero Gicu Iordache helped Chichester to their first three points this season in an enthralling and at times feisty encounter at Oaklands Park against Haywards Heath.
- Iordache (17', 76', 77')
- Cotton (42')
- Dalhouse (51')
Miles Rutherford and Co went with the same starting XI that lost to league leaders VCD Athletic mid-week.
Striker Scott Jones returned to the squad and joined youngsters Theo Bennetts and Ethan Prichard on the bench alongside defender Corey Heath and back-up keeper Ant Ender.
Both Chi and Heath have had challenging starts to the new Isthmian South East campaign with the hosts pointless after three games and their former county league rivals on a lone point after defeats to East Grinstead, Whitstable and Hastings and a draw with Burgess Hill.
In a lively opening it was the visitors who forged a chance barely sixty seconds in when a cross from Hamish Morrison crashed off Rory Biggs into Nico Cotton’s path only for the No11 to pull his effort wide of the goal.
A minute later Jordan Clark and Jacob Gilbert linked up, although Cotton had strayed offside as the delivery came to him.
At the other end Devon Fender and Kaleem Haitham almost profited from a mix-up but Heath smuggled the ball away.
Chi forced the first corner of the game in the sixth minute that Fender nearly got to before Kieran Rowe intercepted a poor back pass from Haitham but dragged his attempt off target.
Lloyd Rowlatt next fed a pass to Haitham after he was felled by a heavy challenge, not for the last time. Haitham had a go but it swerved harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Another tackle on Rowlatt earned the home side a set-piece. Rowlatt picked himself up again and found Iordache who glanced a header over.
A super burst of pace by Rowlatt sent him past a couple of players to set up Rory Biggs but he couldn’t control the ball to get a shot off.
Iordache put Chi ahead with a lovely finish in the 17th minute low into the bottom corner after a slick move involving Connor Cody, Haitham, Rob Hutchings and Fender.
Heath responded and a break on the right won the visitors a corner after Hutchings blocked Morrison’s cross.
Danny Cumber headed this goalwards but Steve Mowthorpe gathered easily enough.
Emmett Dunn then charged down a Cotton effort and the same Heath player forced Mowthorpe into another stop from distance.
Clark received the first yellow of eight in the match in total for taking out Haitham on 22 minutes. Matt Axell’s free-kick was turned out and Dunn got something on Axell’s subsequent corner but not enough to trouble keeper Muhammed Otuyo.
Good work from Dunn snuffed out the danger when Byron Napper and Jacob Gilbert played a neat one-two before a clever Haitham back-heel led to a bit of trickery from Fender in the box who drilled a cross in that was steered out.
Jacob Gilbert and Tom Summerfield joined Clark in Mr Barlow’s book either side of a howler by Otuyo who overplayed trying to clear his lines.
Ben Pashley covered nicely to tidy up an attack as Clark and Morrison linked up on the right flank.
Biggs made a great challenge to deny Heath after Haitham lost the ball in the centre of the park.
Cody then trumped this with an even better tackle as Rowe drove at goal.
The Heath player was booked for a foul on Biggs before Napper had a shot blocked.
And just before the break Cotton equalised from the penalty spot after Mowthorpe was adjudged to have brought down Clark unfairly.
Axell went close twice for Chi in time added on firing an effort into a defender and heading wide a delivery from the left.
Hutchings found Rowlatt in the area three minutes after the restart who looked to be impeded but the ref wasn’t interested and then Cotton fizzed in a ball from the left but no one was able to get to it.
In a frantic five minute spell Heath went ahead and then were reduced to ten men.
Andrew Dalhouse put the visitors in front after 51 minutes with an effort from an acute angle that caught Mowthorpe out as the ball looped in at the far post.
Jones came on for Axell and had a chance almost immediately when he rose with Cody to meet a Rowlatt corner but his header was off target.
Then Cotton, who’d levelled for Heath, was sent off.
Chichester rallied and Dunn wasn’t far away with another header before Mowthorpe punched clear Rowe’s corner.
Pashley managed to guide the ball back to Mowthorpe just after the hour before Rowlatt saw a fierce shot nick off an opponent and the hosts had penalty appeals waved away after Fender went down.
Fender had the ball in the back of the net for Chi on 65 minutes but the ref had already blown for an infringement.
Prichard replaced Haitham and Jones and Otuyo were booked after a bit of grappling when the Heath No1 lost the ball trying to claim Rowlatt’s corner kick.
Iordache grabbed the equaliser with 15 minutes to go heading in a Prichard cross at the second attempt.
And then less than a minute later bagged his and Chi’s third blasting the ball in emphatically with Prichard, Fender and Jones all involved in the build up.
Chances came and went in the final ten.
Rowlatt struck an effort into Otuyo’s gloves; Prichard with Fender and Jones for options chose Jones who fired wide; and Heath weren’t far away with a first shot for some time.
Pashley broke up a move into the box with another perfectly timed tackle before Fender pulled a fine stop out of Otuyo with eight minutes to go.
Heath might have been reduced to nine when Morrison was given a red for a challenge on Hutchings but after discussion with his assistant the referee brandished a yellow card instead.
Jones had a chance to net a fourth for his side late on but the keeper got behind an effort at the back stick.
Bennetts came on for Iordache with five minutes of additional time added and the match winner left the field to well-deserved applause from the Oaklands Park faithful.
Chi return to cup action next as they entertain National League South side Tonbridge Angels on Tuesday 13th October in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup before travelling to Essex on Saturday 17th October to face Brentwood Town in the FA Trophy.
Chichester – Mowthorpe, Dunn, Hutchings, Axell, Cody, Pashley, Iordache, Rowlatt, Fender, Biggs, Haitham. Subs – (Bennetts, Ender, Heath, Jones, Prichard)