Chichester’s title winning season came to an end with a defeat at Eastbourne Town as the champions suffered their first loss in 23 league games – an unbeaten run stretching back to November.
The hosts needed a win and for Horsham YMCA to slip up in a final day match against Langney to stand any chance of pipping YM to the premier division runners-up spot.
Without regular keeper Ryan Young, midfield maestro Matt Axell and the mercurial Gicu Iordache, City bosses Miles Rutherford and Graeme Gee were forced to make changes from the side that beat Pagham 5-0 on Easter Monday.
Ant Ender came in for Young, captain Connor Cody started in the middle of the park with Rory Biggs, with Kaleem Haitham and Sam Ndlovu on the wings to offer support for Josh Clack and Scott Jones.
Dan Hegarty and Kieran Hartley, who have both been out with long-term injuries, returned to the squad and joined Harry Williams, Danny Potter and youngster Luke Wallis on the bench.
The visitors carved out the first chance when a cushioned header from Jones set up Ndlovu, whose shot was just off target.
Town forced three quick corners before Clack missed a real opportunity at the other end in the 11th minute when he latched on to a super pass from Ben Pashley only to lift the ball over the bar.
Dan Perry dragged an effort wide and another dangerous delivery from Tom Vickers gave Ender something to think about.
In the 23rd minute Ellis Martin was the first Chi player to go into the notebook and Vickers went close with the resulting free-kick.
Jones had an effort cleared off the line before Chichester found themselves rocking. The loss of Ryan Peake with a hamstring injury didn’t help their cause. Cody dropped back to partner Pashley and Williams came on.
A cross from the left set up Aaron Capon but Ender got a glove on the ball.
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Biggs picked up a yellow for a foul on George Taggart before Capon gave the home side the lead on the stroke of half-time with a neat finish. A minute later Vickers’ long-range effort fizzed inches over.
Pashley almost diverted the ball into his own net five minutes after the break but Ender recovered well then made to two smart saves either side of the hour from Capon and Dan Perry.
An excellent tackle from Biggs was instrumental in the equaliser on 66 minutes. Biggs found Clack who passed to Jones and the visitors’ leading scorer swept the ball into the back of the net for his 24th league goal of the season.
Four minutes later, Ender couldn’t hold on to Dan Bolwell’s shot and Perry tucked away the loose ball. It was 3-1 moments later after Town won a penalty for Ender’s barge. Vickers calmly slotted his kick into the bottom corner.
Hegarty and Hartley came on before Bolwell’s audacious lob from just inside the halfway line made it 4-1 in the 84th minute much to the delight of the home fans, who provided a lively backdrop as ever at the Saffrons.
Town’s victory wasn’t enough to claim second spot as Horsham beat Langney.
Chichester: Ender, Lewis, Martin, Peake, Cody, Pashley, Clack, Biggs, Jones, Ndlovu, Haitham. Subs: Hartley, Hegarty, Wallis, Williams, Potter
* Chichester City’s players’ presentation night is this Saturday at the clubhouse in Oaklands Park. All supporters are welcome. Doors open at 6pm. A limited number of tables are available for reservation. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more.
On Sunday the club are holding a veterans’ game to honour the memory of ex-players Brian Clarke and Mark Hyde. Plenty of former City players have committed to play. The club would love to see as many supporters there as possible. Kick-off is 4pm and entry is free. The game will be followed by a disco in the clubhouse.