CHICHESTER CITY produced an epic performance in an important relegation dogfight in division one of the Sussex League against Shoreham, winning a nine-goal thriller 5-4.
The mud-splattered Oaklands Park pitch looked like a Somme battlefield and the match itself produced no shortage of frontline artillery power.
It started disastrously for City, with a miscommunication in defence allowing Mark Pulling to stroll through and give Shoreham a third-minute lead.
The Mussels continued to threaten during the early stages but soon found themselves in trouble against the tricky home side.
With Aran McCarthy playing as a lone forward, supported by two attacking wingers and Ken Hagan in a thrust position behind the striker, Shoreham simply didn’t know how to cope or who to mark.
In a seven-minute spell leading up to half-time, Hagan twice managed to ghost into the danger-zone and made no mistake on either occasion, giving City a 2-1 lead.
There was a controversial incident on 54 minutes when McCarthy - blatantly offside - ran through and easily beat keeper James Shaw to plant the ball in the net. The linesman kept his flag down and the goal was signalled, but following Shoreham protests and a discussion among the officials, referee Baker correctly changed the original decision.
Lee Eastman smashed a shot against the post for the Mussels, but on 62 minutes a cross from the City left fell to McCarthy, who hooked it in from short range.
A minute later a spectacular diving header from Jonno Melia at the other end pulled it back to 3-2.
Then, with 70 minutes gone, Perry Northeast pumped a great ball into the area which Hagan seized on to claim his hat-trick.
Five minutes later, Corey Heath fouled Melia and from the resulting penalty Aaron MacMillan sent the ball ricocheted in off the post.
Shoreham then drew level at 4-4 with 13 minutes left when a long free-kick into the goalmouth allowed the unmarked Melia to score.
Both teams were playing as if their lives depended on it and, when Morgan Forry escaped through on his own, another goal seemed to be on the cards. But the City player fell to the ground after the keeper challenged him and appeals for a penalty were waved away.
It was going to take something special to win this contest, and Tom Smith served up a worthy offering in the 85th minute when cutting in from the left and unleashing an absolute belter to put City 5-4 ahead.
Even then it wasn’t over, with the Shoreham keeper coming up to join the attack for the last couple of minutes and muddied blue shirts were seen swarming all around the City goal.
But Chichester held on to record their third victory in five games and give themselves a real fighting chance of avoiding the drop.
CITY: Roberts, D Smith, Baker, Northeast, Tribe, Heath, Cassasa, Hagan, T Smith, McCarthy, Forry. Subs: Boniface, Watts.