Chichester City put the memory of last year's Demolition Derby behind them with a win at home of fierce rivals Pagham in a game full of drama.
Twelve months on a much better Chi performance than the one seen in the 5-0 home mauling by the Lions led to two Josh Clack goals earning a 2-1 win to send City back to the top of the SCFL premier table.
Since that one-sided Boxing Day 2017 clash the sides have met four four times. Chichester ran out 4-0 winners in the RUR Cup final in May, that a few days before they drew 1-1 in the league at Nyetimber Lane.
City beat the Lions 6-5 on penalties after it finished 0-0 following extra-time in a Peter Bentley Cup tie in October.
Coming into this match Pagham had lost three games out of four while City were unbeaten in the same period and City bosses Miles Rutherford and Graeme Gee made changes to the team that drew 3-3 with Hassocks last time out.
Striker Scott Jones came back into the starting XI after suspension. Rob Hutchings was employed at left-back with Ryan Peake on the other side in place of the injured Kieran Hartley and Ross Edwards lined up alongside Rory Biggs in the centre of the park
It was Biggs who had the game’s first chance after 60 seconds when he blasted Jones’ cross over. Moments later Jones got in one on one with Pagham keeper James Binfield who kept the ball out but could do nothing about Clack’s follow-up, much to the delight of the away fans.
The stunned hosts found themselves under further pressure. Clack had an effort turned round for a corner before Gicu Iordache tested Binfield as well, and all in the first five minutes. Iordache, who proved a consistent threat, was then brought down by Charlie Williamson in the game’s first talking point with a challenge that might have resulted in a red rather than a yellow card.
A super knock-on by Jones fell into the path of Iordache only for his shot to whistle past the post. Dan Simmonds hauled Pagham level with a worldie free-kick from the edge of the box in the 14th minute.
Chances came and went for Chi. Kaleem Haitham gave Binfield something to think about; Jones might have got more on a header and a Clack set-piece wasn’t far off target on the half hour. Peake tried his luck with a shot that Binfield gathered easily enough and Simmonds could have done better with a golden opportunity in the 44th minute.
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There was still time for more drama before the break when Pagham were reduced to ten men when Scott Murfin - playing against the team he represented last season - was dismissed for a lunge on Iordache.
City started the second half much the same as they had the first. Haitham started to cause problems down the right wing as the home side adjusted to the one player disadvantage.
Simmonds forged another opportunity though six minutes in that was deflected for a corner. Chi broke from this with Iordache’s run opening up the midfield but no one was able to get on the end of Haitham’s cross after the Romanian picked him out.
It was all City now with Clack, Haitham and Iordache causing all sorts of trouble. Only a smart reflex save from Binfield denied a second goal. The visitors squandered a number of free-kicks but took the lead on 69 minutes when Jones’ bullet header cannoned back of the woodwork to Clack who finished with some aplomb.
Clack stung Binfield’s gloves five minutes later and was on hand again with another fine save after a slick move involving Tyrell Lewis and Haitham. In the last five minutes Binfield did well to get down to his right to a shot that took a double deflection before his counterpart Jordan Matthews just managed to keep out a Simmonds attempt that somehow almost squirmed over the line. Iordache rattled the frame of the goal with a thunderous strike.
The result leaves Chi a point clear in first place with Pagham sixth.
City might have felt disappointed with a draw at home to Hassocks at the weekend but would definitely have settled for seven points from this sequence of games against Horsham YMCA, Hassocks and Pagham.
Chi return to league action on Saturday when Arundel travel to Oaklands Park (3pm) while Pagham make the short journey to East Preston.
Chichester - Matthews, Peake, Hutchings, Biggs, Cody, Pashley, Clack, Edwards, Jones, Iordache, Haitham. Subs - Lewis, Williams, Herbert