Emmett Dunn was OK to play after his sending off mid-week in the 4-0 loss away at league leaders Ramsgate, and there were just two changes to the starting XI that lined up on that occasion with Connor Cody returning to the club in place of Joe Moore and Ethan Prichard replacing Kyle O’Brien.
Chichester came into this match on the back of four straight defeats in all competitions and without a win at the Cannons’ ground in four seasons at Step 4. A nil-nil in 2019-20 was followed by an even shorter campaign curtailed by COVID, a last-minute loss in 2021-22, and another single goal set-back in 2022-23.
Hythe are no mugs and lost narrowly to Whitehawk in the Play Off final last season but Chi spanked the Cannons 5-0 this year in September so maybe something had to give.
Here, the Sussex visitors had a long Jack Steventon throw to contend with early doors that was eventually cleared before Prichard couldn’t pick Bello with his ball.
The poor surface didn’t help and caused problems with both passes and player control all game.
Ethan Smith had the first genuine chance of the match a couple of minutes in but CB Curtis Da Costa made a fine block, and then moments later Lex Allan spurned another opportunity for the hosts at close range following a Frannie Collin free-kick.
Prichard sprayed a diag to Bello only to over-hit and Johan Caney-Bryon got in but Cody made a timely tackle.
His partner in defence Da Costa was also on hand to deny Aaron Barnes when he cut inside.
Steventon was in ahead of Clack to nod the ball back to his keeper Steve Phillips on 10 minutes before the Cannons’ No1 claimed a cross from Prichard after a neat exchange involving Dunn.
Another Steventon throw-in caused issues for the Chi back line who conceded the first corner and at the other end a decent Prichard effort wasn’t far off.
Rob Hutchings was cautioned for handball on 17 – a harsh yellow which would come back to haunt him.
And Hythe skipper Liam Smith wasted a free-header as Collin’s set-piece picked him out.
Prichard was fouled by Barnes at the mid-point with the home side’s No7 needing a bit of treatment. Hutchings whipped the dead ball in, Clack made the header, Dunn got a touch, and Joe Clarke pulled a nice save out of Phillips.
Next, Clarke gave away a free-kick which Collin once gain delivered only for Steventon to head on to the roof of the net and then Caney-Bryan fluffed his lines and blazed over.
Referee Billy Woods chose not to play advantage as Chichester pressed, cautioned Marcus Goldsmith and awarded the visitors a set-piece which Phillips collected easily enough.
His counterpart Kieran Magee then hit a poor clearance but the welcome recipient couldn’t find a Hythe teammate.
Clack was bundled over on 36 before a slick passage of play as Hutchings and Dunn playing a one-two earned the visitors their first corner kick which came to nothing.
Kai Garande replaced Barnes on the stroke of half time just before Clarke tried his luck from some distance.
And then Chi opened the scoring after Clack found Bello with a defence splitting pass and the No7 tucked the ball past Phillips.
Mr Woods signalled four additional minutes and Jake Embery lost his footing in the penalty area as Bradley Schafer fed him.
Da Costa did well to intercept a cross immediately after the re-start and Magee was alert to deny Embery, although the Hythe forward was flagged offside anyway.
Both Hutchings and Clarke made opportune interventions and Clack and Conrad Honore hooked up to win Chichester a 54th minute corner.
This was whipped in by Hutchings for another one on the other side that the hosts cleared without any real pressure.
Next, Da Costa was given a straight red for a nasty challenge on Schafer.
The consequent free-kick was played short to Garande and a goal-mouth scramble resulted in Steventon hitting one over the crossbar.
Two further set-pieces were dealt with by the visitors as it all got a bit “You shall not pass”.
Captain Ryan Davidson fired a shot just wide of the mark and Hythe made another substitution with Kane Phillip replacing Goldsmith.
And then against the run of play Clack doubled the lead shimmying past Smith and curling a lovely effort beyond Phillips in the 72nd minute.
Magee claimed the latest Hythe sub’s header seconds later as he met a Garande delivery.
Hutchings was shown a second yellow as Chi went down to nine with 15 to go.
Davidson brilliantly steered another Garande cross out for a corner and Prichard made way for O’Brien, who joined the fray at left back.
Magee was superb, as were his teammates who defended resolutely.
Phillip hit one high and wide on 80; Hythe appealed for a penalty that didn’t come; and Schafer had a go which deflected into Magee’s arms.
Next, Clack might have got in once more but he was hauled down by Smith who was booked.
Clack lifted his free-kick to Dunn and then tried a long-ranger.
Schafer fired a Phillip cross just off target before Jarred Trespaderne was introduced for Smith.
A fantastic Cody block in another hectic goal-mouth scramble embodied the Chi team spirit and commitment, and Magee gathered again.
Six minutes of stoppage time was indicated and in the first incident of this Trespaderne went into Mr Woods’ notepad for a shirt-tug on Clack.
Magee then prevented Caney-Bryan from pulling a goal back with an impressive save.
Bello was subbed for Lee Seok-jae on 94 and Phillip wasn’t able to keep the ball down as Magee came out.
Chi were in no mood for charity and their No1 made another fine stop as the clock ticked down and O’Brien’s final challenge was superb.
So, against all odds the visitors kept an Isthmian south east clean sheet for the first time through October, November and December. Chichester are at ‘home’ at Bognor’s MKM Arena next on Tuesday19th December (Kick Off 7:45pm).
Chichester – Magee, Davidson, Rob Hutchings, Clarke, Da Costa, Cody, Bello, Dunn, Clack, Honore, Prichard. Subs – (Munt, Spicer, Moore, Lee, O’Brien).