Littlehampton had an annus mirabilis in 2021-22, a year which saw Mitchell Hand and George Gaskin’s men go on a rocky roller coaster run in the FA Vase to the final at Wembley which they lost 3-0 to Newport Pagnell; clinch promotion to Step 4 as champions of the Southern Combination Premier Division; and lift both the Peter Bentley Challenge Cup and the Royal Ulster Rifles Cup.
The Golds overturned Chi’s early two goal advantage at Oaklands Park in the RUR quarter final in April 2022, and although striker Callum Overton regained the lead for the home side in extra time, a Dion Jarvis double, with the winner coming on 120 minutes, sent Littlehampton through against the odds.
An injured Overton was missing for this Isthmian South East match along with Lloyd Rowlatt and Tom Dinsmore, and the suspended Ben Pashley and Adam Biss.
Rob Hutchings and Connor Cody returned to the line-up with Cody pairing new boy Ethan Robb in the heart of the Chichester back line. Joe Clarke got a start at centre mid and Lukas Micevicius was given the No10 shirt ahead of Olly Munt.
The visitors came into the game on the back of a disappointing mid-week home loss to Faversham in the first stage of the FA Trophy and an Emirates FA Cup second qualifying round defeat away at Folkestone Invicta.
There was a bit more grit about Chi’s performance here however and both teams probed in a bright start with player-manager Gaskin flagged offside within sixty seconds before Scott Faber cut out a Kaleem Haitham pass moments later.
Chi right back Ryan Davidson became the first player of seven to be yellow carded by Ciaran Fidler six minutes in for a foul on Jarvis.
Gaskin crashed the subsequent set-piece into the wall and then the hosts won a corner which was hit too deep.
Next, Robb sent Hutchings scampering down the left for an ensuing cross that got cleared before Hutchings, back in the side after an injury lay-off, forced James Binfield into a save with a fierce effort.
Hutchings took the resulting corner that was smuggled away and the hosts countered. A couple of neat touches in a slick build up resulted in Joe Benn, scorer of an incredible 60 goals last season, breaking the deadlock with a clever finish.
Robb and Hutchings combined once more as Chi sought to get back into it but an overlapping Hutchings’ cross was cut out before Gaskin and Jarvis threatened again and Magee got down low to deny the latter.
Littlehampton won a 16th minute corner that Scott Kirkwood headed over and Haitham, Josh Clack and Micevicius hooked up only for the move to fizzle out.
Then Alfie Peacock intercepted an Emmett Dunn pass intended for Haitham before Clack cracked a free-kick into the wall and Dunn dragged his consequent attempt wide.
Clack drove into the box moments later twisting this way and that but his shot was diverted for a corner which found Hutchings who curled one inches past the woodwork.
Prichard had a go next, although his effort was similarly off target.
Robb got in smartly to break up the threat posed by Peacock and Gaskin ahead of Benn’s burst of pace setting up another attack which Hutchings snuffed out.
Davidson then headed away Jarvis’ long throw before a Kirkwood corner ended up in a bit of pinball in the area
A super pass from the back found Peacock who moved the ball on to Gaskin and Benn steered home, only for it to be chalked off by an assistant’s flag.
Clarke and Clack combined but the final through ball to a marauding Cody was misplaced.
Gaskin spurned a decent opportunity four minutes or so before the break and then Benn lost his way somewhat and Hutchings tidied up.
Faber, Hutchings and Liam Hendy were all booked late on and fine defending by Davidson denied Jarvis just before the half time whistle.
Gaskin’s delightful backheel might have teed up Jarvis in the first attack of the second 45 but Cody was there.
Jarvis then took a shot which cannoned off Cody and into Magee’s hands five minutes before Clarke picked out Prichard with an exquisite pass and the Chi youngster beat Binfield with a composed finish.
The No7 might have grabbed a second goal moments later but Binfield was equal to his long-ranger this time.
Benn went into Mr Fidler’s notepad on the hour mark for protesting too much after Gaskin bundled Dunn over.
A couple of timely interventions from Davidson got Chi out of trouble before Haitham overhit a pass to Clack.
Ben Mendoza replaced Clarke in the 65th minute and both Haitham and Prichard passed up chances.
Next, Dunn couldn’t keep an effort down after the ball fell to him following a Hutchings’ corner.
A silky piece of skill from Kyle O’Brien then forced Cody into a super block and Mendoza got away with one for a crude challenge on Kirkwood.
Jarvis wasted a decent opportunity from the resultant free-kick before Magee’s long kick found Prichard who forced a corner which Binfield gathered easily enough.
The hosts earned one of their own at the other end, although Kirkwood’s delivery eluded teammates.
Golds sub Aaron Capon spurned a chance with 15 to go and the home side, on an overload, couldn’t capitalise once more after Cody lost the ball.
Olly Munt came on for Micevicius moments ahead of Jarvis firing a shot into the side-netting.
Cody, suffering with cramp, was exchanged for Rai Dos Santos and Haitham nearly found Munt lurking at the back stick.
Jarvis’ snaking run down the left wing led to another shot which lifted over the frame of the goal.
A frenetic end to end finale saw chances come and go for both sides – Jarvis pulled an effort wide on 88 and Clack couldn’t guide the ball past Binfield two minutes later.
And in the five minutes of time added on Kirkwood blew one and Magee claimed another from O’Brien before Robb got dispossessed only for Jarvis to blaze high and wide at the death.
Chi are without a fixture this weekend but welcome Burgess Hill Town to Oaklands Park in the Velocity Cup on Tuesday 27th September (Kick Off 7:45pm).
Chichester – Magee, Davidson, Hutchings, Dunn, Cody, Robb, Prichard, Clarke, Clack, Micevicius, Haitham (Munt, Dellaud, Mendoza, Dos Santos, Bello).