Chi players congratulate Sam Ndlovu after scoring City's third goal (Picture: Daniel Harker)
Reporter: Dan Andrade
Second half goals from Josh Clack, Matt Axell and Sam Ndlovu against Crawley Down Gatwick helped Chichester extend their lead at the top of the SCFL premier division.
City came into the match on the back of a dramatic penalty shoot-out win in the Peter Bentley Cup at Pagham mid-week and a hard fought 1-0 win away at Uckfield in the league.
The visitors, who gave Chichester a stern test in the corresponding fixture last season, have been in fine form recently with five wins in six matches.
And it was the Anvils who had the first sight of goal, when Michael Belli played Russell Malton in after four minutes only for the No.11 to drag his shot wide.
A couple of minutes later Clack tested Andy Greaves with a cross, which Greaves spilled right into the path of Gicu Iordache, who smashed the follow up against the post.
Clack and Iordache, who were threats throughout, both saw shots go wide before Rob Hutchings’ silky flick to Terrell Lewis resulted in a cross that was inches away from Iordache and Kaleem Haitham.
The versatile Ellis Martin then put a delicious ball in from a free kick, only for the determined Clack to head wide.
In what was a half of many chances, Clack and Hutchings both had shots blocked as the home side’s open and expansive play caused the opposition trouble.
Kieran Hartley struck an effort from outside of the box, which a nervy Greaves spilled, luckily for him, just wide.
Next Greaves denied Hutchings, turning a fierce drive on to the woodwork and recovering well to gather the loose ball.
City Man of the Match Iordache went close on 21 minutes before centre back Connor Cody did well to clear the danger as Belli and Malton linked up once more.
Hartley called Greaves into action again with a stinging shot that spun off Greaves’ gloves for a corner. Cody got on the end of this but his downward header was cleared on the line.
CDG then missed a good opportunity from a Josh Brown free kick that Sam Packham headed into the path of Sonny Barton.
There was time for one more Chi chance before the break, with the tricky Haitham turning his defender inside out, only for Clack to head wide again.
City started the second half the way they ended the first, on the attack.
Hutchings was the first to test Greaves, but the visiting keeper was equal to his effort and tipped the ball over.
Ben Pashley then forced another save out of Greaves.
Chichester’s opener came in the 55th minute. Iordache picked up the ball on the halfway line and used his pace to run through Crawley’s defence. His shot was saved but Clack was there to head the ball into an empty net.
Clack then returned the favour, setting up Iordache whose effort was diverted on to the crossbar, as City looked to get a quick fire second goal.
Crawley might well have levelled moments later. Malton fired a shot in from distance, only to be denied by shot-stopper Jordan Matthews.
A super throw from Matthews sent Iordache on the counter and the Romanian fed the ball through to Hutchings but the striker’s attempt curled away.
Chi boss Miles Rutherford introduced new signing Greg Peel and the debutant was involved in the second goal within a minute of coming on when he picked out Axell in the box who turned and finished clinically past a helpless Greaves.
Peel might have scored himself on 70 minutes after Haitham cut the ball back to him.
Haitham then had a shot deflected for a corner before a Hartley rocket from some way out whistled inches wide, whilst Iordache, who shone throughout and deserved a goal, was denied again by Greaves.
The visitors kept going. Matthews, keen to earn an eighth clean sheet in the league this term, parried a shot from Lewis Croal before Croal and Belli both blazed over.
City grabbed a third late on when good footwork from Ndlovu allowed the Chi substitute to elude two defenders and calmly pick his spot.
Second place Horsham YMCA’S loss to Pagham means Chi are now four points clear of YM and five points ahead of Pagham and Newhaven in the chasing pack.
City host Steyning Town in the RUR Cup this Tuesday and Windsor on Saturday in the FA Vase.
Chichester – Matthews, Lewis, Hartley, Martin, Cody, Pashley, Clack, Axell, Hutchings, Haitham, Iordache. Subs: Anders, Rutherford, Peel, D. Herbert, Ndlovu
Updated 10:10 - 30 Dec 2018 by Ian Worden