Chichester City's FA Cup adventure ends at Tranmere - but not without a fight and the final say
It's gone - but not forgotten. Nor will it be forgotten for a very, very long time by anyone who experienced it.
Chichester City's remarkable and record-breaking run in the 2019-20 FA Cup was always likely to end at Prenton Park as they took on a team who play five divisions higher. But for an hour, the dream of them going one step further was very much alive.
It was 0-0 with a shade under 30 minutes left and all in green and white, plus FA Cup romantics across the country following the updates or watching on BT Sport, dared to dream - either that it could stay goalless, or even that Chi could nick a famous, dramatic winner.
Then it all went wrong for brave City and - moments after they were disrupted by an injury to captain and centre-back Connor Cody, they conceded the game's opening goal, scored by Corey Blackett-Taylor, tapping in from six yards into an empty net after Morgan Ferrier’s header hit the bar from Jake Caprice’s cross. Cody was still off the pitch at the time after treatment - who knows whether the outcome would have been different had he been back on?
It was 2-0 two minutes later when Ferrier raced clear on goal, and with only Steve Mowthorpe to beat, he stroked it right-footed, low into the bottom corner. Ferrier scored his second and Rovers’ third of the tie after 71 minutes, latching on to Manny Monthe’s pass to chip over the visitors’ stopper from 25 yards with Cody and Corey Heath unable to crowd him out. Tie over.
Ferrier grabbed his hat-trick with 75 minutes played, profiting from neat build-up play to divert Caprice’s fizzing cross over the line. Blackett-Taylor struck a volley which found the bottom corner to make it five after 85 minutes. But Chi had the final say - of course they did, as sub Ryan Peake nodded in a Matt Axell corner in the dying moments. And what scenes that sparked.
But this was a day when the scoreline was not the main thing people will remember. What they will remember is a team who were playing in the county league less than a year ago coming to the home of a League One side, an established professional club, and giving a top-class account of themselves.
The players gave their absolute all, made nuisances of themselves all over the pitch and at times looked Tranmere's equals. The fans made almost all the noise - putting the quiet home support to shame with their non-stop chanting and cheering.
The flurry of goals in the final 30 minutes were cruel on Chi - fitness was certainly an issue for a team who have day jobs and train twice a week, taking on full-time footballers. A few got cramp and that injury to Cody certainly hindered City.
But the defeat holds no shame for Chi - quite the opposite. Their FA Cup run has made them local heroes and helped put Chichester on the football map like never before. Oh and it's earned the club £150,000 and a bit.
Well played Chichester City. You deserve all the plaudits that have come your way.
Now then, when's the next round of the Sussex Senior Cup?