Chichester City in first qualifying round of FA Cup for first time in 17 years

Chi City have had a flying start to the season and are in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup / Picture by Neil Holmes
Chi City have had a flying start to the season and are in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup / Picture by Neil Holmes

Chichester bounced back to winning ways with victory in the preliminary round of the FA Cup at south-east London side Bridon Ropes.

Scott Jones got Chi off to a perfect start in the third minute with a firm header from the first corner of the game.

The visitors, who were forced to make changes to the side that lost in the league to Whyteleafe midweek, suffered another injury blow when defender Ben Pashley limped off. Youngster Theo Bennetts came on in midfield and captain Connor Cody dropped back to partner debutant Ryan Davidson.

Jack Kirby earned the hosts a corner that came to nothing and James Murphy had an effort blocked. A slide rule pass from MoM Lloyd Rowlatt picked out Kaleem Haitham but he couldn’t get a shot off.

Next Rob Hutchings pinged in a cross that was just too close to keeper Yves Bampelenga before Gicu Iordache found Callum Overton who fed the ball to Rowlatt only for his attempt to deflect off a Ropes player. Iordache doubled Chi’s lead on 14 minutes with a super first touch and strike.

Overton cut inside and Jones flicked the ball into the path of Rowlatt but Bampelenga managed to get behind his fierce shot. Three minutes later Jones went close with another header after a precision delivery from Corey Heath as City started to dominate.

Chichester had the ball in the back of the net again when Heath picked out Rowlatt this time who guided a header past Bampelenga but he was marginally offside.

The visitors were awarded a rather harsh penalty but Bampelenga saved Overrton’s attempt. A Jones header whistled over the woodwork before the Chi No.9 bagged his second of the game, and his third of the week, on the half hour mark.

Overton was inches wide with a glancing header and was involved in the fourth goal when he played the ball back to Haitham who tucked it away with a neat finish. Steve Mowthorpe came off his line smartly to deny Ropes skipper Nathan Simpson and saved well from the same player in the last action of the half.

Simpson was involved in the home side’s first attack after the break, chesting the ball down for sub Gravlyn Kitondo after a bit of hesitation between Cody and Davidson, but Kitondo’s shot skewed off-target.

Overton was fouled on the edge of the box following a run down the right. Iordache whipped his free-kick in and Jones almost caught out Bampelenga with a cheeky back heel. Jones then had a shot blocked after a clever piece of play between Haitham and Overton before Iordache smashed the ball past a despairing keeper to make it 5-0.

It looked like Chi might run riot and Jones might get his hat-trick on sixty minutes but he lifted his lob over the on-rushing Bampelenga and the bar.

A needlessly conceded free-kick in the 61st minute allowed the home side to pull one back with Simpson firing in from close range. Kirby could have capitalised on another mistake as the visitors took their foot off the gas but Mowthorpe saved well.

Bennetts, who impressed throughout, set up an opportunity for Haitham and then Overton ran on to a lovely pass from Iordache and finished calmly with fifteen to go. A slip at the back gifted substitute Liam Donaldson the Ropes’ second goal.

Jones almost got in again after good work from Rowlatt before Haitham finished things off in time added on latching on to a long kick from Mowthorpe as City joined four other teams that scored seven goals in the preliminary qualifying round.

Manager Miles Rutherford said, “It was good to win. The FA Cup is very big for the team and the club.”

It’s 17 years since Chichester last made it through to the first qualifying round of the competition. Ties will be played on the weekend of September 7.

Chi host Faversham at Oaklands Park on Saturday in the league.

Chichester - Mowthorpe, Heath, Hutchings, Davidson, Cody, Pashley, Haitham, Overton, Jones, Rowlatt, Iordache. Subs: Clack, Bennetts, Horncastle.

* City won 2-1 at Burgess Hill in the Isthmian south-east division on Monday - report here later