Right back Ryan Davidson’s 91st minute equaliser gave Chichester a deserved point in this Isthmian south east contest with sixth placed Sittingbourne played in testing conditions.
The hosts, without top scorer Callum Overton, tricky forwards Gicu Iordache and Ethan Prichard, defender Lewis Hyde and club captain Connor Cody were forced into three changes to the starting XI that beat Whitstable in the Buildbase FA Trophy last time out.
Scott Jones was given the No9 shirt and Kaleem Haitham came in for Iordache.
Ben Mendoza, who moved from Bognor mid-week for a second spell at the club, joined Matt Axell, Alex Weinberger, Ollie Carroll and Cody on the bench.
Corey Heath got Davidson away down the flank and a nice first touch put the Brickies’ left back under some pressure to concede the first corner of the game in less than 60 seconds which came to nothing.
Then at the other end skipper Jamie Horncastle headed clear Toby Ajala’s set-piece after Taylor Fisher had been fouled.
Tyrone Madhani, who had scored in the four previous games for Chi, linked up with fellow midfielder Emmett Dunn and Jones wasn’t far away from the resulting cross.
The visitors countered but Kieran Magee was off his line quickly to get to the ball ahead of an opponent.
Davidson broke down the right wing once more and played a neat pass with Jones only for his cut-back to be turned out.
Johan Caney-Bryan smacked a shot on to Magee’s bar in the 9th minute just before Madhani received a talking to from referee Peter Lowe for a heavy challenge.
A minute later the ref turned down Chi appeals for a penalty when Jones was brought down in the box racing on to Lloyd Rowlatt’s precision rule pass.
Madhani, Dunn and Hutchings next combined well only for the left back’s delivery to clip the heel of Haitham.
The home side won another corner in their subsequent move that Hutchings played short this time to Haitham but the delivery was somewhat wayward.
A goal-mouth scramble ensued on the quarter hour mark with Magee and his defenders blocking three consecutive efforts – the last one from Ajala.
The Sittingbourne midfielder then went in heavily on Rowlatt. Madhani, who scored from a free kick against Whitstable, tried to pick out Jones but he was beaten to the ball by a defender.
Jones was involved with Horncastle next in an attack where George Crimmen almost headed into his own net and neat play from Ajala enabled him to clear the follow up corner.
Madhani then delivered a super cross to a diving Horncastle who swung and missed moments later as the ball popped up to him again after Hutchings jinked into the area.
Crimmen flashed a fierce drive wide of Magee’s right hand post on 26 minutes before Sam Flisher similarly went close.
A slick turn by Haitham set up Jones, however, Sittingbourne defenders smuggled the ball out for a corner that was dealt with easily enough.
Heath, the scorer of Chi’s opener in the FA Trophy, headed wide here on the half hour.
Caney-Bryan broke the deadlock in the 34th minute from close range after Magee uncharacteristically dropped a corner.
And the away team might have been two up but for a super block by Ben Pashley to bale out Heath whose slip allowed Kane Rowland to get in.
Sittingbourne forced a number of corners in the three additional minutes added to the half which Magee and his back four coped with.
Five chances came and went for both teams in a frenetic opening five minutes of the second 45.
The frame of the goal denied Madhani two minutes in before Horncastle also rattled the woodwork with a header that seemed destined for the back of the net.
Jones then spurned two opportunities either side of a Caney-Bryant cross-cum-shot that Magee managed to save and another by the Sittingbourne player which Chi’s keeper got something behind as well.
Rowland and Heath went into Mr Lowe’s notebook for a bit of pushing and shoving in the 54th minute and then Davidson sprayed a long ball to Jones that the striker couldn’t quite get under control.
Rowlatt had an attempt deflected by Flisher for a corner which Caney-Bryan sliced out for another one. Shot-stopper Joe Docherty palmed this firmly away.
Mendoza was introduced for Haitham in the 63rd minute and was soon in the thick of things forcing a defender to block his effort.
Docherty gathered the loose ball and claimed a decent Heath drive down low to his left.
Mendoza almost found Jones with a lovely cross before Madhani made Docherty work from a free-kick.
With 13 minutes to go Hutchings picked out Mendoza only for the new signing to head straight at the keeper.
Jones latched on to a nice ball by Heath but couldn’t steer it past Docherty.
Chi were really pressing now and Madhani had another set-piece nicked away after a foul on Davidson. Rowlatt got to the ball first and Docherty was brave to claim his cross with attackers threatening.
First Horncastle and then Rowlatt made excellent tackles on Sam Okoye-Ahaneku in a couple of rare Sittingbourne raids down the right before Davidson earned the hosts a share of the spoils in time added on from almost the same spot as Rowland’s first half goal.
Coach Danny Potter said, “Credit goes to our ground staff for getting the game on in very difficult conditions with other games being called off or abandoned. The pitch was very good despite the heavy rain.
The match was quite even at the start. We then began to control the game and possession looking to get in behind Sittingbourne but they defended very well. Full credit to their frontline as well – they were very good on the counterattack and looked dangerous in different parts of the game.
We were disappointed to go 1-0 down. It was a rare mistake for Kieran when the corner came in and we couldn’t quite get the ball away and Sittingbourne capitalised on that.
We spoke at half time about how we were playing. We were pleased enough with the performance and what we tried to do in the second half was to be a bit more aggressive going forward.
One or two players did really well after the break – Emmett Dunn was one of the stand-out players. He controlled the centre of the park and was very good in the air.
As the game progressed we created more chances and had to roll the dice a bit. We had to go forward and finally in added time Ryan Davidson got on the end of a very good delivery and made it 1-1.
Even after that I still felt we might have scored again. Full credit to their goalkeeper who played exceptionally well and was probably their man of the match.
We now look ahead to our trip to Three Bridges.”
Chi, unbeaten in a run of four south east division matches, travel to Three Bridges for a league game on Tuesday 5th October (Kick Off 7:45pm) before welcoming Great Wakering Rovers to Oaklands Park in the next round of the Buildbase FA Trophy on Saturday 9th October (Kick Off 3pm).
Chichester – Magee, Davidson, Hutchings, Horncastle, Heath, Pashley, Rowlatt, Dunn, Jones, Haitham, Madhani. Subs: (Mendoza, Axell, Cody, Weinberger, Carroll)