Ellis Martin wins a challenge with Saltdean's Jamie Brotherton (Picture: Daniel Harker)
Saltdean condemned Chichester to their first SCFL premier division defeat of the season in a feisty encounter at Hill Park that saw the West Sussex team knocked off top spot.
The hosts edged the corresponding fixture last year 1-0 and came into the game on the back of a run that has seen them score seventeen goals in four games in all competitions. The visitors, one of the highest scoring Step 5 outfits in the country at this stage, have been free-scoring too - notching nineteen in the same number of matches.
Chi boss Miles Rutherford made several changes to the side that beat Oakwood 5-0 in the RUR Cup. In came full-backs Ellis Martin and Terrell Lewis; with Lorenzo Dolcetti, Dave Herbert, Matt Axell and George Way all returning to midfield. Striker Scott Jones, available once again after a three match ban, joined Rob Hutchings, Steve Herbert, Sam Ndlovu and Kaleem Haitham on the bench.
Saltdean got off to a dream start when Jamie Brotherton capitalised on an under-hit backpass to give the Tigers the lead against the side with the best defensive record in the league with barely two minutes on the clock.
And it might have been 2-0 sixty seconds later when City switched off and Josh Marshall got a shot away that Jordan Matthews did well to save.
Brotherton, who caused trouble all game with runs into channels, flashed an effort just wide of an upright in the ninth minute.
The visitors started to settle and a looping header from Herbert wasn’t far off as he got on the end of a cross from Kieran Hartley after a run through the middle from Dolcetti.
A free-kick from Way was inches too long for Connor Cody before Lewis got into the box after Bailie Rogers slipped only for his cross to be hooked away to safety.
Next Herbert and Tiago Andrade linked up nicely but Axell’s shot angled off-target.
At the other end a bit of skill from Brotherton set up Ryan Warwick whose cross was diverted for a corner.
Herbert created two chances in as many minutes – the first a shot on the turn and the second a fierce strike from distance that gave Saltdean keeper Nathan Stroomberg something to think about.
Hartley then jinked past a couple of players but his cut-back was gathered at the second attempt by Stroomberg.
On the stroke of half-time Brotherton teed up Ben Bacon but the league’s joint-top scorer couldn’t find a connection.
Rutherford introduced Jones and Haitham for Lewis and Herbert seven minutes into the second half as Chi went for it, and the two players combined with Cody in a move that almost came off for the visitors.
Brotherton then spurned a golden opportunity to double the lead in a quick counter-attack before Jones crashed a header onto the bar on the hour mark.
It seemed a goal was on the cards for either side and in a frantic spell only a timely tackle prevented Bacon from getting in; Dolcetti drove narrowly wide and Jones pulled a fine save out of Stroomberg.
It was Saltdean sub Curt Gayler who did find the back of the net, finishing clinically after a sharp pass from Bacon on 67 minutes.
And Gayler might have added a second from a super free-kick some eight minutes later.
Hutchings, who’d replaced Way earlier, then nearly pulled one back for Chi but Stroomberg somehow got a glove on his shot and tipped the ball over the bar.
Matthews did the same moments later when a chip from Brotherton almost caught him out.
Jones then had an effort cleared off the line by a defender who didn’t know much about it.
There were other chances for Chi with five minutes to go but a resilient Saltdean weren’t going to be broken down. Haitham went close following a clever corner and Andrade had a go with an acrobatic effort.
After the loss to Saltdean last year in August City went on a nine game unbeaten run in the league and two goals from Jimmy Wild and one from Haitham late on earned Chi a 3-0 victory over the Tigers in the return at Oaklands in February in a match that Chichester dominated.
Horsham YMCA’s win against Peacehaven sends them top of the table with Chichester second and Saltdean third with a game in hand. Saltdean, who along with Pagham are unbeaten in the league, face YM on Tuesday evening.
Lingfield are up next for Chi at Oaklands Park on Saturday 29th September (Kick Off 3pm).
Chichester – Matthews, Lewis, Martin, Dolcetti, Cody, Pashley, Axell, Way, Andrade, Dave Herbert, Hartley. Subs (Steve Herbert, Hutchings, Ndlovu, Jones, Haitham)
Saltdean – Stroomberg, Whitehead, Rogers, Allen, Jones, Hurley, Warwick, Marshall, Bacon, Brotherton, Kinkene. Subs (Gayler, Graves, Street, Houese, Berry)
Updated 13:03 - 24 Sep 2018 by Ian Worden