A heart-breaking last-minute goal brought City’s historic FA Vase run to an end in the north west and sent 1874 Northwich into Monday’s draw for the quarter finals of this national competition
Chi manager Miles Rutherford knew Northwich would be a very strong side and give his team a very tough game - and so it proved.
It was the home side that started the brighter. Striker Scott McGowan, who proved a real test for the visitors’ back four, had the game’s first effort barely 60 seconds in. Chi keeper Ant Ender almost made a mess of things but gathered his long-range shot at the second attempt.
Two minutes later Ender pulled off a fine save following a cross from Taylor Kennerley. Ellis Martin picked up an early booking in the fifth minute and then play was stopped for some time to allow McGowan to get treatment for a knock.
Northwich certainly looked the more comfortable of the two sides on the ball and Chichester just couldn’t quite get their usual passing game going with Jimmy Wild, back at the club as a dual signing, isolated up top for most of the time.
Kennerley then whipped a cross in on 11 minutes that just eluded Adam Whitlock. For Chi, Lorenzo Dolcetti jinked past a couple of players on a run into the box and then went down under a challenge. Referee Simon Mather wasn’t interested however and waved play on.
At the other end Harry Williams put Ender in a spot of bother with an over-hit back pass. The Chi No1, though, took a deft touch and pushed the ball around McGowan before launching it up field. Wild burst down the left flank but Hall got a glove to his fierce shot at the near post.
Kennerley curled one from distance just wide of Ender’s left hand stick and then was involved in a neat exchange with Jake Parker that resulted in a cross that was too deep for McGowan and co. Next after a mazy run a drive from Whitlock forced Ender into action with a save low down to his left. Then a mix up between Williams and Charlie Williamson gifted McGowan an opportunity but Ender palmed it wide.
It was all Northwich now. A header from a corner went inches over before a nice turn from Mark Jones resulted in a shot that was just off target. Jack Lee, who marshalled his defence well, had to have his wits about him and on 34 minutes only a timely interception from the Chi skipper prevented McGowan getting in on goal.
Then against the run of play five minutes before half time Kieran Hartley cracked one from all of 30 yards that appeared to be dipping in under the bar but to Hall and his team mates’ relief it cannoned off the woodwork. Just before the whistle for the interval Wild and Dolcetti linked up nicley but there was no one in the box when Wild sent his cross over.
Chi forged three half chances straight after the break. First Hall had to rush out to get to the ball before Kaleem Haitham. Then Wild had a shot charged down before Dave Herbert, back at the club and playing in an uncustomary midfield role, went close. Northwich sub Shelton Payne started to make an impact and after a run down the left he managed to pick out McGowan. Ender saved and then was able to smother the loose ball.
And minutes later, only a brilliant tackle from Williams denied McGowan from having another go.
Things got a bit scrappy for a ten minute period or so and both teams made changes. Dolcetti blasted a shot over and then Ender made another impressive stop from Ryan Jackson this time and Lee cleared the ball away for a corner. Lee and Ben Pashley had chances. Lee headed wide and Pashley’s effort was off target too.
Then on 89 minutes, with extra time looking likely, 1874 scored. Chi switched off at a set-piece and Ryan Mitchell guided the ball in from close range. A 600-odd crowd of home fans went nuts. Jackson might have added another deep into time added on after McGowan teed him up.
After the match Chi boss Miles Rutherford said: “I’ve got no complaints whatsoever today. We’ve got beaten by a very, very good side. They kept the ball, they made us work hard. We had some nerves and some players that hadn’t played in that sort of game before. It’s obviously a learning curve for them. I think there were two or three players wanting in the first half. We spoke to the lads at half time. I wasn’t going to moan at players.
“If Northwich played down in our area they would be playing a lot higher than the county league. From one to 11 I didn’t see a bad player. They had two players in the middle of the park that could play two, three leagues higher than they are at the moment.
“We tried as hard as we could. It’s disappointing to lose in the 90th minute but if I’m honest they controlled the game. They didn’t necessarily have loads of chances. We defended ever so well today.
"They must have had 80% of the ball in the first half. They made us work hard and pulled us into places we didn’t want to be. We had players that didn’t know whether to come or go. We were all over the place at times. Ender’s made two or three decent saves.
“All credit to Northwich. I hope they do well in the next round. I think they will. They’re a very good side.”
Chichester: Ender, Williamson, Lee, Williams, Martin, French, Hartley, Haitham, Dolcetti, Herbert, Wild. Subs (Pashley, Ndlovu, Killner, Hutchings, Turnbull).
See a report and pictures from Northwich v Chi City in the Observer, out on Thursday