A stunning strike from in-form winger Kieran Hartley towards the end of the first half proved enough to earn Chichester three points at Arundel on bank holiday Monday.
In the FA Cup at Mill Road on the opening day of the season, Arundel won 4-3 – but the fortunes of the two sides have subsequently taken very different directions.
City are third in the SCFL premier and unbeaten in the league since they lost to leaders Shoreham in September. Arundel, on the other hand, are third from bottom with only one win in ten.
On a bright, fresh morning both sides struggled to get going in their SCFL tussle. Heavy conditions didn’t help.
Without regular No9 and No10 Scott Jones and Max Thoms City lacked their usual cohesion, but the visitors carved out two decent chances in 60 seconds.
First, Arundel keeper James Fernandes pulled off an outstanding save, tipping a fierce header round his left stick for a corner, and then the home side’s No1 was happy to see a well-hit effort from Hartley crash into the side netting.
For Arundel, a speculative cross-shot from Dion Jarvis landed on the roof of his net on 14 minutes, a shot from Jordan Dudas was deflected for a corner five minutes later, before Asa Nicholson pulled a drive wide from the edge of the box.
The game’s real moment of quality came in the 38th minute. A superb cross-field ball from Josh Clack found Dan Watts wide on the right. Watts powered to the byline and drilled the ball into the box. Hartley ghosted in and found the net with a cultured finish.
City had other opportunities before the break. Midfielder Dan Hegarty got on to a Clack corner with a firm header over the bar and following another corner Jack Lee crashed a loose ball against the post.
Chichester started the second 45 at a blistering pace. In Clack and Hartley, City possess real pace down the flanks that suits their high pressing game. Both pulled shots wide and Hartley was unlucky not to reach a cross whipped in by Chi right-back Harry Williams.
Watts couldn’t quite get his shot off following a nice run and cross from Jake Goulding.
Arundel’s Harry Russell went close on the hour, first following a quick counter-attack after a City corner that caught the visitors short at the back, then breaking through again and firing inches wide.
Chi forced four corners in as many minutes. Fernandes cleared the first with a punch, the next resulted in a scrambled effort that troubled the keeper at his near post. Hartley had a fierce shot blocked from the following set-piece before Hegarty headed another wide.
Arundel almost pegged it back to 1-1 on 75 minutes. Barney Boutwood did well to get an effort away but a shot that looked destined for the top corner curled the wrong side of the post.
City subs Perry Northeast and Jamie Horncastle, on for Williams and Lee, made valuable contributions. Northeast sent Goulding away with a great pass and Horncastle slid in bravely to get on the end of a cross from Clack.
A minute later Horncastle made a timely challenge as City’s last man.
Chichester hung on to to pick up a welcome three points. And with Shoreham losing 2-1 to Littlehampton, City closed the gap on the leaders.
Chichester coach Danny Potter said: “This was an important win for us. We went into the game knowing it would be tough.
“Arundel played with lots of character and credit to them.”
Chichester take on Buckland Athletic in their last-32 FA Vase match at Oaklands Park on Saturday.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking sports news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
Share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!