Chichester City’s FA Cup adventure has certainly thrust the club into the spotlight.
Their achievements in the competition have been recognised by the Isthmian League, with qualifying round wins against Hartley Wintney in September and Bowers & Pitsea in October earning them consecutive Performance of the Month awards.
For players, staff and supporters at the Oaklands Park outfit, though, the weekly grind against other teams in the south-east division matters just as much and a point away at high flyers Sevenoaks in a very open game that either team might have won ensured Chichester are still unbeaten on the road after three months of Isthmian league life - in a run that includes an excellent win over current league leaders Cray Valley PM.
Miles Rutherford & Co went with the same starting XI that featured against Hythe a fortnight ago. A fit-again Jimmy Wild joined fellow striker Scott Jones on the bench alongside George Cody, Emmett Dunn and Ryan Peake.
Third-placed Sevenoaks came into the match as one of the form teams in the league and took the lead in the 15th minute thanks to a neat finish by Frankie Sawyer. Sawyer had earlier attempted a spectacular overhead kick after a determined run from Fraser Walker.
Chances had already come and gone by then for Chichester. Jamie Horncastle dragged an effort wide with barely two minutes on the clock following a flowing move involving Kaleem Haitham and Josh Clack.
Lloyd Rowlatt had a shot deflected for the first corner of the game. Ryan Davidson got something on Matt Axell’s in-swinger. This was turned out for another corner that came to nothing before Haitham tested the hosts’ keeper Patrick Lee.
After Sevenoaks took the lead, the visitors were awarded a penalty in the 18th minute. It was a soft one that incensed some in the Sevenoaks dugout but Axell, whose spot-kick put Chichester ahead against Bowers in the FA Cup, lifted this attempt over the bar.
Davidson and Rowlatt both had shots blocked in Chi’s next attacks before an unmarked Ben Gorham spurned a golden opportunity to double his side’s advantage. Next Jack Miles did well to hold off Haitham as he sought to get to an intelligent through ball and moments later a Gicu Iordache drive ricocheted off a defender for a corner.
Chichester then struggled to clear Kyle de Silva’s set-piece with the ball sitting up kindly for Tyrell Richardson-Brown. Haitham grabbed the equaliser five minutes before the break steering in a Clack cross from close range.
The home side forced three corners in as many minutes after the restart and should have scored when a short one to the impressive Alec Fiddes caught Chi napping. Davidson went close on 55 minutes just before Haitham, who shone on a dreary day, put Chichester in front with a shot on the turn that went in off the post after neat build up play.
Sevenoaks would have bounced straight back had it not been for a super save from Steve Mowthorpe. The Chichester keeper then pulled off another fine stop with his feet to deny de Silva and a swerving shot. After the two saves a mistake from Mowthorpe gifted the hosts a second goal that Sawyer gratefully accepted.
Jones and Dunn came on for Gicu and Axell for the visitors and Louis Collins replaced Ainsley Everett for the Oaks. Bradley Schafer forced a smart save out of Mowthorpe and then Miles missed a sitter.
Lee punched a Connor Cody cross away and a quick break, so characteristic of Sevenoaks’ style, allowed Sawyer to get in once again only for the No10 to pass up the chance of a hat-trick. Lee then palmed clear and Jones sent a header inches wide of the right hand post before Haitham drove a shot just over.
Schafer, Richardson-Brown, Walker and Fiddes caused Chi trouble late on with Mowthorpe preventing sub Renford Tenyue a potential 90th minute winner. And there was still time for the visitors to grab all the points. Clack, Jones and Wild, on for Horncastle, went close in three minutes of added time but it finished all square.
Chi are back in the media spotlight this evening (Monday) when the BBC broadcasts the FA Cup second draw live from their Oaklands Park clubhouse from 7pm.
Chichester travel to Shoreham for the rearranged Sussex Senior Cup match on Wednesday (7:45pm) before a large crowd is anticipated at Oaklands Park on Saturday, November 16 when Chi face Sittingbourne in their first home league game for two months (3pm).
Chichester: Mowthorpe, Davidson, Hutchings, Axell, Connor Cody, Heath, Clack, Horncastle, Iordache, Rowlatt, Haitham. Subs – (Wild, Jones, Peake, Dunn, George Cody).