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Pagham 0-3 Chichester City

No16 Theo Bennetts, in the thick of the action, scored Chi’s third goal

A Kaleem Haitham header, a first senior team strike for Theo Bennetts and an own goal helped Chichester progress to the final of the Dave Kew Cup in their opening pre-season encounter against Pagham.

Coaches Danny Potter and Darin Killpartrick fielded a side made up of regular starters, U23 players and trialists.

Steve Mowthorpe returned between the sticks for his first competitive match since Covid curtailed a second consecutive season at Step 4, Ryan Davidson lined up in his customary right back position with Archie Cooke on the other flank and club captain Connor Cody and Corey Heath were partnered in the heart of the defence. Jamie Horncastle and Flo Vucaj joined Alex Mulrooney-Skinner, Haitham and Ethan Prichard in midfield and Alex Weinburger started up top.

Chi right back Ryan Davison outjumps an opponent

The Lions were the brighter of the two teams early-doors and rattled the woodwork after three minutes.

Cody tidied up the loose ball and Weinburger tested former Chi keeper Conor Kelly in the visitors’ subsequent attack.

Mulrooney-Skinner, who shone in the first 45, was brought down following a nice turn but the free-kick came to nothing.

Then Vucaj had a shot blocked before Pagham countered and Mowthorpe got out smartly to gather.

Kaleem Haitham heads in Chi’s first goal

Haitham went close after a super cross from the right and put Chi ahead with a collector’s item headed goal in the 15th minute.

Pressure from Chi No7 Alex Mulrooney-Skinner forces an own goal

Vucaj, Prichard and Mulrooney-Skinner linked up effectively to force the first corner of the game that Chichester failed to capitalise on and a cheeky back heel from Ryan Morey sent Pagham away only for a team-mate to stray offside.

Chi doubled their advantage on 20 minutes when an excellent delivery from Prichard was turned past Kelly by one of his defenders under pressure.

Haitham found Prichard as the visitors pressed once more and the 2020-21 break-through player went down in the penalty area after his shirt was pulled, but the referee wasn’t interested.

A marauding Cody went on one of those characteristic mazy runs past a number of players into the box only for Kelly to deny his effort.

Next Haitham picked out Weinburger but he couldn’t shape the ball beyond Kelly.

And then Haitham, clearly enjoying his run out, found Mulrooney-Skinner. A clever touch by the No7 gave him a shooting chance that he pulled just wide of the mark.

Mowthorpe had had little to do for 40 minutes or so but got a strong glove on a low drive as half time approached.

Davidson, back at his previous club, together with Horncastle, had a go although the shot was always rising and a tame effort by Haitham was dealt with easily enough by Kelly.

Potter and Killpartrick rang the changes at the interval bringing on Bennetts, Akil Alleyne and Dan Wood for Mulrooney-Skinner, Prichard and Heath.

And in a repeat of the opening half Pagham struck the woodwork again but in less than 60 seconds this time.

The hosts would rue these missed opportunities and Bennetts, who captained the U23s in their Supplementary Shield final against Pagham counterparts back in May and is America-bound on a university soccer scholarship, made it 3-0 with his first goal for the senior side after a mistake by the Lions substitute keeper.

Vicaj had a shot tipped over moments later before Bennetts might have added a second following another defensive lapse.

Horncastle dropped to centre back as ten-man Chi lost Cody.

Jamie Horncastle slides in against his former club (All Pictures: Neil Holmes)

Morey lifted one over and a second effort was deflected for a corner.

Pagham forged four chances in as many minutes but Chichester were in no mood for charity.

Prichard, who came back on for his captain, was bundled over again in the box – nothing doing once more and Chi had to settle for a corner which the keeper claimed under no pressure.

Next a Pagham shot was blocked bravely and the follow up effort curled the wrong side of the post before a swift overlap down the left gave Prichard and Davidson some defending to do.

Mowthorpe played Prichard in with a raking pass only for the keeper to smother the ball as the City youngster sought to go round him.

Alleyne found himself in the same situation with eight minutes to go but was also denied by the Pagham stopper.

Prichard then went close in the following passage of play and Alleyne had an attempt turned out for another Chi corner.

The home side could have grabbed a consolation late on but a nice jink into the box resulted in a shot straight at Mowthorpe and with practically the last kick of the game the framework came to City’s aid for a third occasion.

After the match Killpartrick said, “It was good for the players to get minutes today and we thought they did all we wanted them to do”.

Next up for Chichester is an away trip to United Services Portsmouth FC on Tuesday 13th July (Kick Off 7:45pm) and a double-header on Saturday 17th July with one side travelling to Horndean and another facing Worthing in the Dave Kew Cup final (Kick Off times to be confirmed).

Chichester – Mowthorpe, Davidson, Cooke, Horncastle, Cody, Heath, Mullrooney, Vucaj, Weinburger, Haitham, Prichard. Subs – (Bennetts, Alleyne, Wood)