Chichester City's run of 22 league games unbeaten came to an end at Oaklands Park as they lost to table-toppers Shoreham and missed the opportunity to overhaul their visitors in the Southern Combination premier's top spot.
The Musselmen dished out City's only other league defeat back in September at Middle Road. Shoreham won 3-1 on that occasion and hit another three goals in this reverse fixture through the Premier's top scorer Rob O'Toole, Kieron Pamment and Tom Burton.
Shoreham had been out of sorts coming into this clash between first and third in the league. They dropped points at home to Eastbourne Town and then suffered what manager Bryan O'Toole termed a “freak result'” in the midweek loss to Hassocks. Chichester on the other hand had won their past four games, netting 15n goals and conceding only two in this spell.
The Shoreham boss's response to his side's dip in form has been to bolster his squad, picking up Pamment and Joe Shelley on transfers from Pagham. Both players started against Chi and Shelley was the first period's stand-out player.
The tall No4 bossed things in midfield and was involved in Shoreham's best chances of the half. In the 12th minute Shelley's chip bounced off the City bar and a minute later he tested keeper Dave Hook from outside the box. Another fierce shot on the half-hour mark flew past Hook's post and Shelley sent a header inches over just before the whistle for the interval.
It wasn't all Shoreham in the first half, however. Rocks dual-registered striker Jimmy Wild got on to the end of a Josh Clack free-kick then found himself one on one with Shoreham's keeper Josh Heyburn following a defence splitting pass from Ellis Martin in the 27th minute, only to drag his shot wide.
Shoreham defenders were also made to work after a good exchange between Max Thoms and Kieran Hartley and it needed a strong block to keep a goal-bound effort out.
The game's turning point came on the hour following a swift Shoreham counter-attack after some intense City pressure where it looked like Chi might go in front. First Dan Watts rattled the visitors' bar before Lorenzo Dolcetti went close with a header from Clack's set-piece. Seconds later the ball was in the Chichester net. Shelley and Jamie Cradock combined well down the left flank allowing O'Toole to steer the resulting cross in at the back stick for his 31st goal in 33 appearances in all competitions.
Shoreham doubled their lead five minutes later, Pamment turning the ball in this time from an almost identical spot for his first for his new club.
City huffed and puffed trying to get back into the game but Wild found himself feeding off scraps as Shoreham shut up shop. A mistake by Hook in the 83rd minute gifted the visitors a third and ensured their top spot in the league. Haywayds Heath beat Broadbridge Heath 4-0 at Hanbury Park to keep within two points of Shoreham, whilst Chichester remain in third place.
So the spectacular six-month unbeaten run is over. Before the match City fans were struggling to remember the last time the club put one together quite like this. They trawled back through the 90s, 80s, 70s and 60s but no-one could recall anything to match their 2016-2017 sequence. The club can take much from their achievements so far this season.
Next up for City is a trip to Broadbridge Heath on Saturday.
City – Hook, Williams, Lee (Collard), Martin, Watts (Northeast), Hartley, Horncastle (Pashley), Thoms, Dolcetti, Clack, Wild.
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.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!