Chichester City put the memory of last year’s Demolition Derby behind them with a win against their local rivals in a game full of drama. Twelve months on a much better performance than the one in that 5-0 mauling and two goals from Josh Clack helped send Chi back to the top of the SCFL premier division.
Speaking after the 2017 Boxing Day loss manager Miles Rutherford said, “Obviously to lose 5-0 in a local derby is difficult to take. It’s not often you get beaten like that. Hopefully, it’s a one off.”
Since then Chichester and Pagham have met four times. City ran out 4-0 winners to lift the RUR Cup on a memorable evening in May when Jimmy Wild scored twice before the break and Dave Herbert added another two goals in the second half. The spoils were shared in a 1-1 draw at Nyetimber Lane in the last league game of the season a few days later before Chi beat the Lions 6-5 on penalties in a Peter Bentley Cup tie in October that finished 0-0 after extra time.
Coming into the match Pagham had lost three out of four in all competitions whereas City were unbeaten in the same number of games.
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 from 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.
And it was Biggs who had the game’s first chance after sixty seconds when he blasted a cross from Jones 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 constant 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 before Dan Simmonds hauled Pagham back into things with a worldie free-kick from the edge of the box in the 14th minute.
Chances then came and went for Chi. Kaleem Haitham gave Binfield something to think about; Jones might have got more on a header at the back stick and a Clack set-piece wasn’t far off target on the half hour.
Peake next 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.
And there was still time for more drama before the break as Pagham were reduced to ten men when Scott Murfin was dismissed for a lunge on Iordache.
City started the second half much the same as they had the first.
Haitham began 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.
And only a smart reflex save from Binfield denied a second goal with just over an hour played.
The visitors squandered a number of free-kicks in this spell but took the lead on 69 minutes when Jones’ bullet header cannoned back off the woodwork to Clack who finished with some aplomb.
Clack then stung Binfield’s gloves five minutes later and the host’s keeper 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 almost squirmed over the line.
And then Iordache rattled the frame of the goal with a thunderous strike in time added on.
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 Oakland’s Park (Kick Off 3pm)
Chichester - Matthews, Peake, Hutchings, Biggs, Cody, Pashley, Clack, Edwards, Jones, Iordache, Haitham. Subs - Lewis, Williams, Herbert
Updated 10:10 - 30 Dec 2018 by Ian Worden