First Team
Isthmian League South East Sat 15 April Oaklands Park
Chichester City
  • Haitham (55')
Ashford United

The Sussex side came into the match on the back of a seven-game winless run through March and into the last month of the season.

There were two changes to the starting XI that lost 2-0 at promotion chasing Whitehawk last time out with centre back Ben Pashley and forward Haitham returning to the line-up in place of Isaac Bello and absent leading scorer Ethan Prichard.

Chichester have a decent record against this Kent team and won the corresponding fixture last year 3-2 thanks to a late Scott Jones goal.

They were tenacious here again, and might have gone ahead sixty seconds in when a Lloyd Rowlatt snap shot fizzed inches past the left-hand post.

Pashley then did well to beat Gary Lockyer to the ball on four minutes and Chi had another long Bradley Simms throw-in to contend with which Emmett Dunn headed away.

Next, man of the match Rob Hutchings hooked up with Haitham and Rowlatt, who couldn’t quite control the final pass, and the visitors conceded the first corner of the game.

Rowlatt played it short, Ashford failed to clear their lines, and skipper Josh Clack lifted an effort over George Bentley’s cross bar.

At the other end Cameron Brodie tried his luck from distance but Kieran Magee saved easily enough, and then Brodie drilled an attempt wide following some poor defending and a neat ball from Danny Parish.

Clack found Joe Clarke in Chi’s next attack only for Haitham’s shot to get deflected for a second corner on 15 which Bentley, the busier of the two keepers, punched clear.

Magee was then nearly caught out by Lockyer’s long-ranger but he pedalled back and gloved the ball out for a corner that Henry Muggeridge whipped across and Rowlatt headed to safety.

Chichester countered and won a couple of corners of their own which were both smuggled away at the mid-point.

Super skill from Joe Moore and a drag back opened up the centre of the park and Clack had two efforts blocked before Clarke wasn’t far off getting a telling touch to Haitham’s delivery on the half hour mark.

Pashley was the first to go into Paul Barber’s book for a challenge on Lockyer in a dangerous area. The Ashford No9 dusted himself down and beat the wall with his set-piece but not Magee.

Joe Moore gave a needless corner away on 32 which Charlie Dickens fired over only for Moore to hook clear and set up a counter that ended with Hutchings dragging a shot off target.

Clarke failed to trouble Bentley 36 minutes in after good work from Haitham and Hutchings, who rolled his marker in the next break and picked out Clack only for Bentley to get down low to claim.

An offside Rowlatt had one cleared off the line five minutes before the interval and Simms joined Pashley in Mr Barber’s notepad for impeding Haitham.

Bentley then claimed Rowlatt’s fierce effort at the second attempt and Ben Gorham was cautioned for a foul on Clack.

Moore cut out a Muggeridge ball straight after the re-start; Clarke won a throw-in off of Sam German; and Bentley lashed a back pass out for another throw which came to nothing.

Connor Cody beat Dickens five minutes in but his cross to Haitham resulted in a rather wayward shot.

Cody then won the ball once more and almost found Rowlatt and Clarke who both tried acrobatic efforts.

Clack got out-muscled by defender Liam Friend before Rowlatt saw an attempt blocked and Bentley reached a Cody ping ahead of him.

Brilliant persistence from Haitham led to the winner on 55 minutes and a lovely finish nestled in the bottom left hand corner.

It might have been 2-0 moments later as Clack pickpocketed German but did too much and lost possession.

Bentley kept the Kent team in it with an amazing parry to deny Rowlatt in the 58th minute and was on hand again to prevent Haitham from doubling the advantage.

Haitham was then bundled over in the box – no pen according to Mr Barber.

Next, Ashford sub Johan Ter Horst won an odd corner which he delivered and Chi cleared.

Haitham found Clack on 68 but the No7’s cross failed to pick out a teammate before Brodie forced Magee into an outstanding save.

Magee was at again 12 minutes from time to stop impact player Vance Bola from equalising as his shot moved around considerably.

Chichester rang the changes themselves with Olly Munt and Isaac Bello replacing Clarke and Moore for the last 10.

Bello ran on to a Cody flick-on only for his shot to get diverted for a corner which Munt took short to Hutchings whose decent cross was headed out for a throw-in.

Bentley then made a fine save to deny Hutchings and Pashley broke up a promising counter attack involving Bola, Lockyer and Simms.

Lockyer was booked in the four minutes of stoppage time; Bello beat Dickens in a foot-race; Hutchings’ thunderous hit earned Chi another corner; and at the death Magee claimed a Ter Horst cross ahead of Lockyer.

So, Chichester, in tenth spot, picked up their first victory in eight games, and have that nine-match unbeaten run, with seven wins and two draws from the end of January through to the beginning of March, to be thankful for.

The Nuts and Bolts miss out on the play-offs, after things unravelled for them recently, and Chatham Town are Isthmian South East Division champions.

Miles Rutherford’s men have just two fixtures left in the 2022-23 campaign. They welcome East Grinstead Town to Oaklands Park on Tuesday 18th April (Kick Off 7:45pm) and then travel to Sevenoaks in their last game of the season on Saturday 22nd April (Kick Off 3pm).

Chichester – Magee, Cody, Hutchings, Moore, Hyde, Pashley, Clack, Dunn, Clarke, Rowlatt, Haitham (Munt, Bello, Montague, Weinberger).