Haitham hits the heights to keep Chichester City nine points clear

Kaleem Haitham is congratulated on his goal - which turned out to be the winner / Picture by Daniel Harker
Kaleem Haitham is congratulated on his goal - which turned out to be the winner / Picture by Daniel Harker

A goal early in the second half from Kaleem Haitham was enough for Chichester City to claim all three points against Eastbourne United and maintain their nine-point lead at the top of the SCFL premier division with eight games to go.

City bosses Miles Rutherford and Graeme Gee named the same starting XI that beat Uckfield last time out.

It was the league’s bottom side who threatened first when Dylan Clifford dragged a shot wide of Ryan Young’s goal. City responded almost instantly. Haitham found Dave Herbert, who crossed to his midfield partner George Way only for his attempt to go the wrong side of the post.

In the 18th minute Sam Schaaf had the audacity to try to lob Young, but his cheeky effort flew over the bar. Schaaf almost picked out Chris Cumming-Bart, but again Young was smart and advanced off his line to smother the chance.

It was proving to be a game where Chi didn’t play to their full potential but Eastbourne battled throughout. Schaaf was involved once more setting up Kane Penn. Much to the relief of the home fans Matt Axell made a vital last ditch tackle. Tyler O’Callaghan then headed over for the visitors when he should have done better.

Schaaf was denied again by Young, while Clack and captain Conor Cody caused problems down the other end. City came into the game shortly before the break with Gicu Lordarche hitting the side netting, Way volleying wide and Herbert forcing a fine save out of Jordan Hawkins.

Chi started the second half with a high intensity and were rewarded two minutes after the restart as Clack picked out Haitham with a delightful ball and the winger guided it into the net with a first-time, slick volleyed finish.

The visitors looked to reply but Schaaf and Cumming-Bart both had their shots saved by the trustworthy Young. Goalscorer Haitham continued to impress, almost forcing Harry Ducatel to head into his own net. From the resulting corner Cody’s clever front post flick was cleared off the line as City looked to double their lead.

February player of the month Rob Hutchings had a shot but it flew wide after a captivating team move and Clack had an effort blocked moments later.

There was chaos when last week’s match winner Ryan Peake came up for a corner but his effort and another one from Clack were blocked thanks to some last-ditch defending from United.

Clack, who was influential in the second half, then saw his header go wide after a brilliant cross from Way. Chi, despite not making it easy for themselves, held on for another hard-fought 1-0 win.

Closest rivals Newhaven also won, meaning Chi's gap at the top remains nine points.

City travel to Lancing on Saturday (March 9) looking to take another step towards promotion. Newhaven play their game in hand at AFC Uckfield on Tuesday night.

Chichester – Young, Lewis, Hutchings, Axell, Peake, Cody, Clack, Way, Iordache, Herbert, Haitham. Subs. Biggs, Martin, Ndlovu, Potter, Callnon.