“It was a very tough game as we knew it would be. They were a decent side. But there were some good performances from all of the team”
Goals from Harry Williams and Steve Hutchings helped earn Chichester City a place in the last 16 of the Buildbase FA Vase. Chi bowed out at this stage last year to Buckland Athletic but put that disappointment behind them with a gutsy performance to reach this round of the competition for the first time in the club's history.
Speaking before the game, Chi boss Miles Rutherford said, “This Vase game is massive for us. If we do well then we can kick on from here.”
His counterpart Glynn Stephens said, “Of course this is a massive game for all involved and credit must go to ourselves and Chichester City FC for reaching the last 32 of the FA Vase. Three more wins will put us on the doorstep of Wembley. I expect this to be a competitive game against strong opponents. I hope the players can produce a game worthy of the competition.”
And what a game it was.
The visitors were certainly fastest out of the blocks. Barely two minutes in Scott Jones was upended on the edge of the penalty area after a super pass from Hutchings sent him on his way.
Josh Clack's free-kick was, sadly for the contingent of Chi fans in a crowd of 350 or so at the New Defence ground, high and wide.
Clack's next effort made Horley keeper George Hyde work before Chi took the lead when Williams ghosted in to tuck away a nicely delivered set-piece from Ellis Martin at the far post.
Shell-shocked hosts slowly started to get into the match and build some pressure of their own. Long throws were also a constant test for the City defence.
Then another free-kick from Martin just eluded Hutchings on the quarter hour mark.
An exchange between Keeran Boylan, Leyton Regan and Adam Grant produced the home side's first effort 20 minutes in but it didn't trouble Ant Ender in the Chi goal.
Clack had a go at the other end after good work from Hutchings and Dan Hegarty before floating another free-kick in, too close to Hyde this time.
A pinpoint cross from Hutchings two minutes later was headed on to the bar by Luke Killner as home fans held their breath. Jones got something on the resultant corner but there wasn't enough power in his header.
Jones was then involved in a glorious chance that would have seen City two up. The No.9 jinked past a couple of players and pulled the ball back for Clack who should have really put his foot through it.
Ender, who to be fair, had been quiet up until this moment pulled off an outstanding reflex save tipping a shot over somehow when players in front of him failed to clear their lines.
Town might have equalised on the half hour but Alex Barbary got things horribly wrong and skewed his attempt, although he could have then redeemed himself with one that fizzed inches past Ender's right hand post.
Barbary was involved in the goal that leveled the match four minutes before the interval. A smart pass found top-scorer Boylan who buried the ball in the bottom corner.
Boylan had another chance a minute later before both Hyde and Ender had to rush out to deal with danger.
Horley started the second half on fire and Regan was instrumental down the right wing.
Jones had a half-chance but it was all Horley for fifteen minutes or so in a spell where Chi had to defend resolutely. The home side also had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Gerry Heron.
So Hutchings' goal on 61 minutes came very much against the run of play. Jones did well to win a corner that didn't get beyond the first man but when the follow up cross in the next phase of play was whipped in Hutchings found the back of the net after a superb piece of control.
The visitors then forged four opportunities in as many minutes. Clack was involved in two, a Lorenzo Dolcetti pass nearly set up Jones and the striker was a whisker away from getting on the end of another cross from Hutchings.
Play was halted for a lengthy treatment to Scott Robson who was eventually replaced by Zac Powell.
Chances came and went for Grant for Horley and only a firm glove from Hyde denied Dolcetti for Chi.
It could have been 3-1 in the 83rd minute but Hutchings, who posed a threat all game, headed Jones' cross on to the bar.
Both sides made changes and Horley went for broke in the last five minutes. The City back four dug in though and Ender did well to take a high cross and then gather a lower one that looked destined for Boylan lurking in the box.
In time added on Hutchings might have snatched another but Hyde made a great save with his feet.
Afterwards Chi skipper Dan Hegarty said, “It was a very tough game as we knew it would be. They were a decent side. But there were some good performances from all of the team and we managed to get the win in the end and we're into the hat for the next round.
“The pitch made it difficult for both sides. There was obviously a lot on the line and both teams went for it. We had to get stuck in and put pressure on them and in the end it was all worth it because we're in the next round.
“Everyone at the club is absolutely buzzing. It's a really exciting time and we can't wait to see who we get in the draw. We don't fear anyone. Everyone's on a similar level to us and on the day if we're better than them we'll go on and win the game. We'll see where our future goes.”
Look out for photos on flickr and coverage from Back of the Net.
Chichester – Ender, Hartley, Williams, French, Martin (Kanjanda 87), Clack (Haitham 90), Hegarty (capt), Dolcetti, Killner, S. Hutchings, Jones. Unused subs: R. Hutchings, Turnbull, Ndlovu
Horley Town - Horley Town: Hyde, Robson (Powell 71), Bevan (Greenaway 83), Poplett, Brackpool, Smith (capt), Regan, Herdman, Boylan, Grant (Turner 78), Barbary. Unused sub: Hall
Updated 15:35 - 8 Jan 2018 by Ian Worden