Chichester players celebrate with Ellis Martin after his spot-kick clinched victory (Picture: Daniel Harker)
Ellis Martin’s 83rd minute penalty sent Chichester to the top of the SCFL premier division on goal difference after this feisty encounter between first and second at a rain lashed Gorings Mead as Storm Deidre swept in.
Three points separated the teams before the match with leaders YMCA on a run of five straight wins in the league.
Chichester were 2-1 winners in the reverse fixture at Oaklands Park in August thanks to a Scott Jones double and this proved to be another close match with little to choose between the two sides.
The first clear cut chance of the game came in the 11th minute when Aaron Jeal in the Horsham goal palmed Josh Clack’s free-kick round the post.
Then Connor Cody was unlucky with a header before YM’s Luke Gedling almost found Alex Barbary with a through ball.
Moments later Jones fed a pass to Clack. Clack jinked past a defender or two on his way to the byline but was unable to pick out Martin who had made a lung-busting run.
Chances came and went for both teams. Jeal managed to deal with Gicu Iordache’s shot after a run from Cody opened up the YM midfield, Clack fired one over and Tony Garrod nearly caught out Chi keeper Ant Ender.
Ender had a couple of set-pieces to deal with in a spell of pressure just before the half hour and was grateful that Barbary took a heavy final touch after he’d got in down the left.
Iordache called Jeal into action again with a shot that the YM keeper turned over.
Rob Hutchings then had an effort deflected for a corner before the same player’s cross was poked in after a melee in the box. Referee Josh Godfrey chalked the goal off for a handball and gave Jones a yellow card.
The home side might have taken the lead when Barbary set up Garrod but his drive cannoned back off one of his teammates and at the other end Cody got a connection of sorts on another corner that didn’t really trouble Jeal.
Just after the break only a timely tackle denied Iordache a good opportunity.
Then a fierce drive from Barbary fizzed inches wide.
City bosses Miles Rutherford and Graeme Gee introduced Rory Biggs and Kaleem Haitham for Dave Herbert and Hutchings and Haitham was soon in the thick of things in a move involving Iordache and Clack.
Some desperate defending helped Chichester finally clear their lines after a bit of pinball in the box and Dean Brown tried his luck from distance but Ender had it covered.
Garrod broke through again but Ben Pashley made a super challenge to snuff out the danger.
Guy Harding gave Chi a heart in mouth moment when his header went close and YMCA had a penalty appeal waved away after Jack Hartley went down in the area.
Martin made Jeal work from a 70th minute set-piece before the hosts wasted a good chance with ten minutes to go.
They paid the price for this when Martin converted from the spot after Biggs had been fouled – the ball nicking in off the woodwork for the left back’s sixth goal of the season.
Garrod had another chance for the home side in the final minutes but the visitors, with the meanest defence in the premier division, held on to record a tenth clean sheet in the league.
Hassocks visit the Countrywide Gas Services Stadium on Saturday (Kick Off 3pm) before Chi travel to Pagham for the Boxing Day derby.
Chichester – Ender, Hartley, Martin, Axell, Cody, Pashley, Clack, Herbert, Jones, Hutchings, Iordache. Subs: Lewis, Biggs, Williams, Ndlovu, Haitham.
Updated 12:54 - 17 Jan 2019 by Ian Worden