Chi have now picked up five points in three visits to the Homelands since their promotion to Step 4 of the non-league football pyramid in 2019. A late Lloyd Rowlatt stunner settled a 3-2 win in that inaugural season before the Nuts & Bolts won the reverse fixture three days later by the same score-line with all five goals coming in the first half at Oaklands Park.
The two sides didn’t meet in the Covid-curtailed 2020-21 campaign but Scott Jones came off the bench to grab an 86th minute winner in another five-goal thriller last year before Emmett Dunn’s stoppage time header earned Chi a share of the spoils in another dramatic encounter in Ashford.
The play-off spot hosts have been a little out of sorts of late with only one win in their previous five league games.
Here, Dunn dropped to the bench as regular right back Ryan Davidson returned from suspension, and striker Tom Chalaye was given a debut following his mid-week switch from Bognor in an otherwise unchanged starting XI to the one that lined up against Sevenoaks in a lone-goal victory last time out.
City’s new forward got Ethan Prichard away in the visitors’ initial attack to win an early throw.
Davidson, alert as ever, then cut out Charlie Dickens’ probing pass and Omar Lawson spun his marker as the home team pressed.
Next, Cody conceded the first corner of the game on four minutes which was headed over by a Nuts & Bolts defender.
Rob Hutchings sent Josh Clack scampering away down the left flank only for his cross-shot to brush the frame of the goal.
Ben Pashley did well to deny former Haywards Heath player Gil Carvalho at the other end and Davidson similarly intervened to snuff out an Ashford counter.
Chalaye went over a bit too easily perhaps for referee Joe McKay who waved away penalty appeals in the ninth minute before Carvalho lost control trying to get in and the ball rolled out for a goal kick.
Kaleem Haitham and Clack linked up as Chi attacked moments later but the final delivery wasn’t close enough to Chalaye and Clack tried his luck from distance with a shot that veered wide of the mark.
Carvalho, who certainly gave Chi something to think about in the first half, pressured Cody into conceding another corner that Ryan Sawyer this time headed over.
Jamie Horncastle then charged down a Toby Asala effort and Magee was equal to Carvalho’s shot on the turn 16 minutes in.
Ethan Prichard nearly got on the end of a decent cross from the left but couldn’t take the ball in his stride and then a slick Ashford move involving Ajala, Dickens and Bradley Simms resulted in a cut-back by the latter being cut out.
Next, Hutchings brought the ball under control skilfully with a brilliant first touch but the second one didn’t live up to the first.
And at the mid-point Davidson picked a pass to Clack whose flick on to Chalaye wouldn’t quite come off.
Davidson then blocked Lawson’s shot and no home player could get a telling touch on the subsequent corner.
Chalaye forged arguably the best chance so far bursting through one on one with Pat Ohman only for the Nuts & Bolts keeper to get his angles right when the debut boy pulled the trigger.
Chalaye and Clack hooked up in Chi’s following attack to force a poor clearance which came to Prichard, but with Ohman out of position, the visitors’ top scorer failed to capitalise.
Chi paid the price for a couple of spurned opportunities when the impressive Asala did Hutchings down the right and put the ball into the box where it was diverted beyond Magee off the hapless Biss.
There was almost an immediate response but Haitham, with more time than he might have appreciated, lifted one high after Davidson teed him up.
The home side could have doubled their advantage seven minutes before the interval when Carvalho unselfishly squared to Lawson who was unable to loop the ball over Magee.
Magee’s counterpart Ohman then comfortably claimed a Davidson delivery; Clack bought a free-kick after mugging two opponents; Asala caused a bit of consternation with a dangerous ball in; and Pashley steered another out for a corner that got put back into the mixer by Gary Lockyer with no joy for the hosts.
Neither team made changes at the break.
Two chances came and went for Ashford in the opening 10 with Dickens dragging a shot wide after good work from Lockyer who acted as a Nuts & Bolts fulcrum knocking on balls this way and that, and forced Magee into a stop on 53.
Hutchings then elected to steer a forward pass out for a throw-in rather than play back to Magee before Davidson had a go with a left footed drive that Ohman gloved round his upright for the visitors’ first corner after it nicked off a defender.
Cody’s deserved equaliser came just ahead of the hour following some intricate exchanges.
Next, Haitham and Prichard combined and although the No7’s delivery was well-measured no one had kept up with him.
Prichard then headed over as Chi pressed up the right and Cody got bossed off the ball only for Magee to claim Carvalho’s cross.
Super skill from Prichard saw him gas an opponent or two and feed Clack who tried to lob Ohman.
Prichard was at it sixty seconds later but Davidson headed off target.
Chi’s higher tempo caused Ashford grief in this spell – an inviting ball from Hutchings, who’d hooned up the left wing, towards Clack forced Ohman to race off his line.
A long-ranger, by either Horncastle or Chalaye, then pulled a smart stop out of the home side’s custodian and Pashley bailed Hutchings out after Simms bombed past him.
Lockyer’s header did little to trouble Magee with 20 to go with misplaced passes and poor touches featuring more frequently.
The home side rang the changes on 75 as Carvalho and Dickens made way for Johan Ter Horst and Mikey Dalton.
Then Lockyer scuffed a weak shot which was easy for Magee before fizzing an effort narrowly wide.
Magee palmed away a cross as Ashford threatened once again; Dunn replaced Biss; and Lockyer flicked on a Simms’ throw that Magee claimed.
Next, Haitham played Clack in but the Chi skipper couldn’t get over the top of it and fired high.
Clack wasn’t far off with three minutes of normal time left cracking one into the side-netting before Ter Horst headed wide.
And in the final opportunity Clack couldn’t find the right touch to guide beyond Ohman after a neat passage of play between Davidson, Dunn and Horncastle.
A draw was probably a fair result at the end of the day.
Chi travel to Beckenham Town on Tuesday 6th December (Kick Off 7:45pm) to face another top six side before welcoming third place Whitehawk to Oaklands Park on Saturday 10th December (Kick Off 3pm).
Chichester – Magee, Davidson, Hutchings, Horncastle, Cody, Pashley, Haitham, Biss, Clack, Chayleye, Prichard (Robb, Bello, Dunn, Lumsden, Munt).