Chichester End 2018 On A High
Chichester City 6-1 Arundel
Rob Hutchings in action against Arundel (Picture: Steve Robards)
Another high scoring home win ensured Chichester City will head into the new year top of the SCFL premier division.
Having mixed things up in recent weeks bosses Miles Rutherford and Graeme Gee went with the starting XI that beat Pagham in the Boxing Day derby.
Chi looked anything but a settled team though in the opening stages of this match and the visitors might have taken the lead after 30 seconds when a slip from Ben Pashley let Ash Hawkes and Dave Crouch in. City keeper Jordan Matthews made a good save and was relieved to see the second attempt sail over his crossbar.
At the other end Ross Edwards couldn’t keep his shot down either after playing a neat one-two.
Matthews was called into action again moments later after the Mullets capitalised on another mistake at the back and the visitors deservedly broke the deadlock in the 13th minute through Ben Gray’s smart finish.
There were goals galore in the three encounters between the sides last season - Chi winning a cup tie 6-0 and beating Arundel 5-2 and 4-3 home and away in the league. So it seemed unlikely this was going to be settled by a lone goal.
Two minutes after the opener Connor Cody burst through midfield but his pass to Josh Clack was a bit too heavy.
Clack then gave Arundel keeper Stuart McDonald something to think about after good work from Edwards.
The hosts might have fallen further behind after 23 minutes when an unmarked Crouch headed over.
Boxing Day man of the match Clack almost caught out McDonald with two efforts in as many minutes - a clever low freekick before having another effort blocked after Kaleem Haitham teed him up.
And it was Clack, the scorer of both goals against Pagham, who equalised on 36 minutes with his sixth goal since returning to the club at the end of October. Scott Jones’ header was only partially cleared and Clack was quickest to react, turning the ball in from close range.
City were back in it now and Ryan Peake tested McDonald with a firm header before Gicu Iodarche’s shot on the turn went inches wide.
On the stroke of half time Haitham gave the hosts the lead with a cracking half volley that rifled into the net.
And in time added on McDonald spilled a Clack cross for top scorer Jones to bag a typical poacher’s goal.
Dave Herbert came on for Jones at the break and was soon involved as the home side sought the all important next goal.
Clack went close five minutes in and Arundel defenders did well to deny Iordache with a couple of blocks in a scramble in the box before McDonald deflected the Romanian’s drive for a corner with his feet.
Herbert, who has a habit of scoring against his former club, made it 4-1 on 54 minutes and might have added another in the next attack.
Arundel had a rare sniff at goal on the hour mark but Dray dragged his effort wide.
Herbert scored again with a lovely lob after the ball fell invitingly to him and would have had a second half hatrick but for a super parry by McDonald.
Chi forged further opportunities. Terrell Lewis brushed the bar with a cross-cum-shot and Rory Biggs pulled another save out of the Arundel No.1 before firing over the follow up.
Dan Gibbs then somehow headed a Cody pile-driver off the line.
Lewis wrapped it up with two minutes to go of normal time when he ran on to a superb pass, turned a player inside out and beat McDonald with a shot that nestled in the bottom left hand corner for his first goal for the club.
Chi are now four points clear of second placed Horsham YMCA following their 1-0 home defeat to Broadbridge Heath.
City go again in 2019 with an away game at Loxwood on Saturday (Kick Off 3pm)
Chichester - Matthews, Peake, Hutchings, Biggs, Cody, Pashley, Clack, Edwards, Jones, Iordache, Haitham. Subs (Williams, Herbert, Martin, Lewis, Ndlovu)
* Chichester have scored six goals or more in five games this season (Hassocks, Peacehaven, Lingfield, Mile Oak, Arundel)
* Scott Jones has scored six goals in his last seven matches
* Chichester have gone on to win after falling behind to an early goal three times in the league this year (Langney, Lancing, Arundel)
* Chichester have picked up 16 points out of a possible 18 in a busy unbeaten December
* New Year table-toppers Chichester head in to 2019 on 50 points, having scored 61 goals in 21 league games and conceded 19