Lancing and Chichester played out a goalless draw in a match that wasn’t exactly your Christmas cracker, but a point on the road, nevertheless, moved Chi up to their highest position in the league this season.
When the teams met in the reverse fixture at Oaklands Park at the end of August a first half strike from Kaleem Haitham, a double after the break by Scott Jones and a Callum Overton goal late on gave Chichester a comfortable 4-0 win.
Chi have been pretty potent of late, banging in ten in the previous three Isthmian south east matches, but here that cutting edge was missing and the hosts, who pulled off a shock victory away at table toppers Cray Valley PM last time out, were well-drilled and organised.
Miles Rutherford & Co made several changes to the side that lined up against Westfield before Christmas in the Velocity Trophy with regular keeper Kieran Magee back between the sticks; Ryan Davidson and Ben Pashley returning in defence; Lloyd Rowlatt starting in his customary midfield position; and Kaleem Haitham and Overton in attack.
A quick throw-in by Davidson early on got Prichard away and the nippy forward skipped past a couple of players into the box only to lose possession.
Prichard then combined with Haitham and Overton as the visitors won the first corner of the game which Lancing keeper Alieu Secka gathered at the back post.
Haitham might have done better to get something on Ben Mendoza’s cross before a coming together between Overton and Secka led to some treatment for the Chi striker.
Finn Daniels-Yeoman crashed an effort into the side-netting in the tenth minute after Joe Rye picked him out and a slick move involving Darius Goldsmith, Matt Daniel, Daniels-Yeoman and Gabe Robinson earned the Lancers a corner of their own that Pashley cleared.
Lancing player-manager Kane Louis’ clever flick might have got Liam Hendy in, but Hendy in his 250th appearance, was beaten to the ball by Magee rushing swiftly off his line.
Davidson then drove down the right and found Overton with a lovely delivery the Chi top scorer headed off target.
Louis drew a foul off Emmett Dunn and Pashley once again cleared the resulting set piece.
Prichard, who posed the visitors’ best threat, had a shot blocked on the quarter hour mark after Mendoza lofted the ball to him.
Another opportunity went begging when Haitham got a touch on Mendoza’s cross only for Secka to recover and claim.
Rob Hutchings headed away a Goldsmith free kick at the other end and Robinson poked one over the bar.
Great feet from Haitham helped him jink past two opponents and win a set piece which came to nothing.
Prichard had another attempt blocked and Mendoza lifted Chi’s best chance over 26 minutes in.
Next Secka mishit a clearance and Haitham skewed a shot wide after a defender slipped.
Referee Sean Phillips had a stern word with Louis for a heavy challenge on Prichard just before the first period’s talking point when Lorenzo Lewis cracked a fierce effort on to the bar and down. Had the ball crossed the line? Mr Phillips didn’t think so.
Prichard twisted this way and that in Chi’s next attack but it wouldn’t sit up for him to get off a shot.
Nice skill from Goldsmith teed Robinson up for an attempt that Magee saved comfortably and then Mendoza’s super pass fell to an unmarked Prichard who couldn’t keep his shot down.
Prichard, Haitham and Overton combined again but without any end product and Overton missed another header on the stroke of half time.
Mendoza and Davidson probed for Chi after the restart and forced a corner off Mahamadou Juwara. Secka got a rather awkward glove on Hutchings’ delivery and diverted it for another one on the other side.
An opportunity came and went for Mendoza and Lewis also spurned one for the hosts cutting inside after a clever one-two.
Dunn, who scored the winner against Lancing on his debut back in the county league, couldn’t find the right power or direction with a header before Davidson hit a shot over igniting further cries of “How high do want the goal?” from the Lancing fans.
Will Berry came on for Louis on the hour and then Goldsmith opened up the midfield with a fine run, but the Chi back four snuffed out the danger.
Lewis’ cross from the right was smuggled away as well and Magee got behind a decent Daniel effort.
Prichard headed wide of the mark with 20 to go in what proved to be his last contribution with Tyrone Madhani replacing him.
Magee came out calmly and played the ball carefully to Davidson ahead of Daniel.
Jones was sent on for Haitham and Ismaila Diallo, who grabbed the time added on winner against Cray Valley, replaced Robinson.
The visitors somehow cleared as the ball pinged around in the box and then Hutchings fizzed one past the left hand post following a good run.
A glorious Lancing chance for all three points came and went following a slick passage of play between Harrison Parker, Berry and Daniel but Diallo sliding in couldn’t quite get a decisive touch.
Madhani blazed over and Dunn pulled a shot wide.
Jones was then caught by Rye. Madhani whipped in the free kick and Jones tucked the ball away after Secka spilled it. The ref, however, had blown for an infringement.
Parker read a pass in injury time and got Lancing on the counter with a lung busting run only to drill his effort wide.
So, both teams had to settle for a share of the spoils. A win for the hosts would have seen them pull away from the cellar-dwellers.
Chi move up one place to seventh spot, and only table-toppers Hastings have a better form record in the last eight league games.
Rutherford’s men are back in league action at Oaklands Park against Burgess Hill Town on Thursday 30th December (Kick Off 7:45pm).
Chichester – Magee, Davidson, Hutchings, Horncastle, Mendoza, Pashley, Rowlatt, Dunn, Overton, Prichard, Haitham. Subs: (Hyde, Jones, Madhani, Farrier, Carroll)