Back to reality: Chichester City battle to league point after crazy week in the FA Cup

Chichester City on the attack at Hythe / Picture by Daniel Harker
Chichester City on the attack at Hythe / Picture by Daniel Harker

After an extraordinary week, perhaps an ordinary game was what Chichester City needed.

Days after their remarkable bye into the second round of the FA Cup and all the media attention that went with it, they returned to Isthmian south east division action with a visit to Hythe Town.

Chichester City in action at Hythe / Picture by Daniel Harker

Chichester City in action at Hythe / Picture by Daniel Harker

Chichester had played more FA Cup games than league ones before Saturday and the trip to Kent was a third consecutive weekend on the road for City. And it was an away day Chi almost didn’t make after the players’ bus broke down on route.

Boss Miles Rutherford went with the same starting X1 that featured in the Cup fourth qualifying round win away to Bowers and Pitsea and following a delayed kick-off it was the hosts who created an early chance when James Rogers, Frannie Collin and the impressive Kiernan Hughes-Mason linked up.

Corey Heath denied Ross Ibbertson moments later before a knock-on from Rob Hutchings nicked off a Hythe player for the first corner but Lloyd Rowlatt’s delivery was too close to keeper Will Godman.

A timely interception by Ryan Davidson sent Chi on a counter attack six minutes in but Godman was down quickly to deny Josh Clack.

Chichester City go close / Picture by Daniel Harker

Chichester City go close / Picture by Daniel Harker

Davidson, at the back stick, got something on the resulting corner, although his downwards header bounced out for a goal kick.

Ibbertson shot over before Tom Walmsley skilfully brought down a through ball only for a defender to block his shot.

Walmsley wasn’t far off on the quarter-hour before Chichester’s best chance came and went following an exchange of passes between Gicu Iordache, Kaleem Haitham, Rowlatt and Clack.

In a frantic five minutes Steve Mowthorpe pushed away a well-struck free-kick that popped up in front of him, Connor Cody and Heath threw themselves in front of efforts by Tom Carlton and Hughes-Mason and Jamie Horncastle and Rowlatt had shots blocked.

Haitham went close with two opportunities, one from long distance, then a stretching Rowlatt couldn’t quite get to Hutchings’ cross from the left. And on the stroke of half time Clack almost got on the end of Gicu’s delivery.

Collin and Hughes-Mason were involved in Hythe’s first attacks after the restart before Collin’s firm header was gathered by Mowthorpe.

In tricky conditions the passing wasn’t always slick. Iordache had an opportunity to pick out Haitham that he spurned and Walmsley should have got Collin away.

A super pass from Rowlatt on the hour found an overlapping Hutchings who pushed the ball on to Clack but the Chi No9’s drive lifted over the bar.

Haitham, the scorer of that fortuitous goal in the FA Cup against Bowers, stung Godman’s gloves in the 67th minute.

Scott Jones, who’d replaced Iordache, went close with a header before Haitham forced a smart save out of Godman. Next Horncastle tried his luck from long range. Ryan Peake, on for Heath, did well to head clear a Hughes-Mason set-piece with five or so to go.

There were a couple of other scares for Chi in time added on, and the visitors might have even grabbed all three points when Clack drilled an attempt narrowly wide and Jones was crowded out looking for a shot on the turn.

The draw was Chichester’s first in a league game since February, while their unbeaten record on the road in an exceptional start to life in the Isthmian league continues into a fourth month.

A large crowd is anticipated at Oaklands Park on Saturday when Chi face Ashford United.

Chichester: Mowthorpe, Davidson, Hutchings, Axell, Cody, Heath, Iordache, Horncastle, Clack, Rowlatt, Haitham. Subs: Biggs, Dunn, Jones, Peake, Gurau.