First Team
Isthmian League South East Sat 12 February Oaklands Park
Chichester City
Cray Valley PM
  • Ibrahiym (50', 57')

There were three changes to the line-up which started that heart-breaking stoppage time loss to Herne Bay mid-week.

Josh Clack was given the No9 shirt following his move back to Oaklands Park from Haywards Heath; Lewis Hyde, who fell ill in the match with Bay, dropped to the bench; and Emmett Dunn returned to midfield after a knee injury.

It finished goalless when the sides met in the reverse fixture back in October. The Millers were top of the league then, and despite a dip over Christmas and the New Year, the south east London outfit came into this encounter unbeaten in their previous five, and in second spot behind Hastings.

And it was the visitors that got going first – Francis Babalola finding Denzel Gayle down the right wing who whipped a deep cross towards Nathan Green.

Green took a tumble in the area – nothing doing according to referee Peter Lowe.

Lloyd Rowlatt then passed to Clack who played the ball on to an advancing Ryan Davidson. Cray keeper Chris Lewington confidently left Davidson’s lofted effort which wasn’t far over.

Jack Sammoutis fed Babalola as the Millers pressed once more and a push in the back on Clack earned Chi a free-kick which Rob Hutchings took and Davidson couldn’t quite get to.

Next Kaleem Haitham and Ben Mendoza combined and the latter’s delivery was hooked away.

And then 10 minutes in a chance came and went for the away side when Chi keeper Kieran Magee got off his line to challenge Gayle for the ball but lost out. Ben Pashley though, was on hand to make a telling tackle and pick up a knock for his trouble.

A super clearance from Magee fell to Ethan Prichard, only Clack couldn’t get his teammate’s cross under control.

Magee was then called into action to deny Ibrahiym and Gayle cracked a follow-up effort off Pashley and out for a corner which came to nothing as Magee was impeded by Cray captain Connor Dymond.

And at the other end Haitham forced Lewington into a smart stop from some distance and Mendoza’s header was steered away for a corner after a double save, which Clack glanced just over the frame of the goal.

Prichard had a shot on the turn blocked on 16 minutes by Green before Davidson got a stern talking to for a foul on Gayle.

Chi cleared the subsequent set-piece and won one of their own after a heavy challenge on Prichard which the visitors got away easily enough.

Striker Marcel Barrington blazed an effort over at the mid-point before Lewington slid out nicely to claim as City threatened.

Jamie Horncastle then picked out Mendoza who should have gone to Prichard straight away.

Dunn lost the ball and Sammoutis and Barrington hooked up but Hutchings defended capably.

The Millers broke again and Davidson managed to divert Gayle’s cross for a corner.

Clack, Dunn and Rowlatt all got tackles in during a spell of intense Cray pressure and Ibrahiym skewed an attempt off target.

Prichard had one blocked before a slip by Horncastle set up a shot for Barrington that nicked off a defender and Babalola caused problems again.

Hutchings powerfully headed away another corner and five minutes before the break Prichard was denied by the bar after he read a poor header back to Lewington.

Davidson then should have unleashed a shot on a driving run; Horncastle stood up well to Ibrahiym; Dunn went into Mr Lowe’s notepad; and Ade Adeyemo fired one high and wide with the last kick of the half.

Pashley was in effectively to tidy up as Adeyemo, Barrington and Gayle menaced again on 47 minutes.

Babalola then saw his shot blocked and Haitham’s delivery was cleared by Green just ahead of Ibrahiym breaking the deadlock with a freakish goal he’ll not have known much about when Rowlatt’s clearance struck the Cray player and looped over Magee.

The Cray No18 might have joined Dunn in Mr Lowe’s book seconds later for simulation before grabbing his and his side’s second goal in the 56th minute as a mix up between Horncastle and Magee gifted Ibrahiym the simplest of tap ins.

Hyde replaced Horncastle after a knock and Mendoza caught Sammoutis. Gayle found Babalola with the free-kick but his header was blocked.

Chi huffed and puffed as Cray Valley sought to take the wind out of the sails.

Mendoza missed a decent opportunity on 65 minutes heading Prichard’s precise cross wide.

Barrington was fortunate to get away without a yellow card for a heavy challenge on Dunn and then the Canadian did well to break things up as Babalola pressed.

Hutchings moved up field as Chi reorganised to a back three and a raid with Haitham down the left flank ended up in Mendoza flicking an effort wide.

Both teams rang the changes with Charlie Oakwell-Boulton coming on for Dunn, and the opposition making all three of their substitutions.

The Millers seemed content to sit and hit Chi on the counter as things got scrappy.

Hutchings and Mendoza might have got in but the final forward pass was too heavy; Ibrahiym, in search of a hat-trick, drove into the Chi box but Oakwell-Boulton cleared; a jinking Haitham run was stopped; and Oakwell-Boulton’s delivery was too close to Lewington.

Green missed a sitter at the back stick heading tamely into Magee’s gloves and a bit of pinball in the visitors’ penalty area fizzled out.

Green had another chance to make it 3-0 from the spot after Oakwell-Boulton brought down Ibrahiym but dragged his 88th minute kick wide of the right-hand post.

And Ibrahiym thumped one high over the bar late on.

Cray Valley PM remain six points off front-runners Hastings.

It was Chichester’s fifth league game on the bounce against higher placed opponents. In this tough sequence Miles Rutherford’s men have defeated Burgess Hill and Sittingbourne, and might count themselves unlucky not to get anything out of the matches with Haywards Heath and Herne Bay. They were well-beaten here, however.

Next up for Chi is a Sussex Principal RUR Charity Cup quarter final away at Littlehampton Town on Tuesday 15th February (Kick Off 7:30pm) before travelling to Hythe for another Isthmian south east clash on Saturday 19th February (Kick Off 3pm).

Chichester – Magee, Davidson, Hutchings, Horncastle, Mendoza, Pashley, Rowlatt, Dunn, Clack, Prichard, Haitham. Subs: (Carroll, Dellaud, Hyde, Oakwell-Boulton, Coote)