Chichester City captain Connor Cody was on hand to rescue a point against in-form visitors Sittingbourne in the first Isthmian south east fixture at Oaklands Park for two months.
The FA Cup run to the second round, an inaugural appearance in the FA Trophy and fixtures in the group stages of this year’s league cup have occupied Chi since a defeat to Three Bridges at home in the league in September.
Chichester had drawn their past two league games coming into this encounter. A goalless match away at Hythe was followed by a 2-2 draw with Sevenoaks, whereas in their previous two Sittingbourne had picked up maximum points against Hythe and Herne Bay.
Manager Miles Rutherford made a couple of changes to the side that drew with Sevenoaks - striker Scott Jones replacing Kaleem Haitham, who bagged a double in Kent; and Canadian born midfielder Emmett Dunn, a scorer in the Sussex Senior Cup win over Shoreham midweek, coming in for Matt Axell.
It was the visitors who threatened first when a free-kick was lofted into the box by skipper Chris Webber. Steve Mowthorpe, though, was equal to the task and came out to punch clear.
The hosts were having nice spells of possession only to disappoint with the final ball after impressive combination play. Chi almost took the lead when Dunn won a free kick. Clack took responsibility for it but wideman’s effort bounced agonisingly off the post.
A flurry of Chichester chances followed either side of the half hour with crosses consistently bombarding the Sittingbourne back four. The away side were almost undone when a low Clack drive was diverted goalward by an outstretched Jones only for a defender to get a block in. Clack sent a speculative acrobatic attempt wide of Jordan Perrin’s goal.
For all Chi’s efforts it was the away team that took a 34th minute lead through playmaker Thomas Fagg. The No8 evaded several challenges in a mazy run that ended with him squeezing a shot under an on-rushing Mowthorpe at a tight angle into the bottom corner.
Sittingbourne were almost gifted a second when a Corey Heath misplaced back pass just trickled wide of Mowthorpe’s goal. The resulting corner was almost converted by Cory Walters-Wright who headed wide.
Jones tested Perrin at his near post following great work from Davidson who was able to drive inside and slip the striker in.
A mistake from Jamie Horncastle before the interval when he was disposed led to a Sittingbourne counter, although Mowthorpe was out quickly to thwart the effort as Sidney Sollis failed to beat the shot stopper in a one on one
An early opportunity for Jones in the second half came to nothing when a clipped ball by Iordache found Jones over the top, but the striker failed to round Perrin.
The home side finally got back on level terms just before the hour. A marauding run from man of the match Cody, who linked up well with both Lloyd Rowlatt and Dunn, led to the equaliser. The Canadian sent Cody through and Perrin was beaten by a striker’s finish from the central defender.
Chi made their first change of the game with winger Haitham coming on for Iordache. And Haitham wasted little time getting straight into the action as he played in Rowlatt down the left flank. His cutback found its way through to Clack at the far post who could only blaze high over the bar.
Substitute Matt Axell went close with a set-piece that forced Perrin into a super save tipping the ball over the bar. Tempers flared on the pitch with Chichester players infuriated after a late challenge on Rowlatt earned just a yellow card.
Moments later Chichester were awarded a penalty when Heath was man-handled in the box. Axell, who missed from the spot last week, admirably stepped up but Perrin saved.
Chi pressed on in search of the winner. Rowlatt had a curled effort dealt with by Perrin, then Jones was set up by Haitham but the striker’s heavy touch forced him wide and he couldn’t get off a decent shot.
Jones had another go after winning back possession on the edge of the Sittingbourne box but his effort fizzed just wide of the post.
Chi might have won it in stoppage time when Haitham crossed deep and spectacularly almost lobbed a helpless Perrin. However, the upright came to the visitors’ aid and Rutherford’s side had to settle for a point for a third game in a row.
Chichester are back on the road again as they travel to Haywards Heath in the Velocity Trophy on Tuesday (7:45pm) before they return to league action in a visit to sixth-placed Phoenix Sports on Saturday, November 23 (3pm).
Chichester: Mowthorpe, Davidson, Hutchings, Dunn, Cody, Heath, Clack, Horncastle, Jones, Rowlatt, Iordache. Subs – (Biggs, Axell, Wild, Peake, Haitham)
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