Chi players rush to celebrate No.5 Ryan Peake's late winner (Picture: Kate Shemilt)
Reporters: Dan Andrade and Ian Worden
In a tale of two cities Chichester bounced back from their disappointing midweek Peter Bentley cup semi-final defeat against Saltdean to grab a late winner in the SCFL premier division match with Uckfield.
It was the best of times at Oaklands Park as Ryan Peake headed home the only goal of the game deep into time added on. As Peake wheeled away to celebrate with teammates by the corner flag things got even better for City as news came through that second placed Newhaven had lost for the third time in four games and in-form Eastbourne Town’s sixteen match unbeaten run had ended in a 4-1 home defeat to Horsham YMCA in the battle between the teams in third and fourth spot.
This is the second time the City defender has scored late in a game to earn his side all three points. Back in December Peake’s goal with five minutes to go against Langney Wanderers capped things off as Chi recovered from 2-0 down at half-time to win 3-2. This time his bullet header that sparked scenes came in the 95th minute.
Bosses Miles Rutherford and Graeme Gee made several changes to the side that faced Saltdean earlier in the week. Terrell Lewis, Gicu Iordache and Kaleem Haitham all returned to the starting XI with Peake partnering captain Connor Cody in the centre of the defence.
Chichester got the better of Uckfield in a close match at the Oaks in October when Ellis Martin scored in a 1-0 win. The Uckers, who sat in sixth place in the league before this reverse fixture, have had a good season, advancing to the fourth round of the FA Vase and the semi-finals of the RUR Cup. Their victory at Horsham YMCA in the other Peter Bentley semi set up a showdown with Saltdean for the trophy.
In a bright start to an at times stop-start match it was the visitors who forced the first corner of the game after sixty seconds.
City counter-attacked from this and a nice touch from Josh Clack set Iordache up for an attempt that skewed wide.
Uckfield’s stand-out player Dee Okojie then went close with a cross-cum-shot before Ryan Welch headed over a dangerous cross from Gianfranco Mici.
Chi’s first real chance came twelve minutes in when Lewis took the Uckers midfield out of the game with an inch perfect pass to Clack, who battled his way through two challenges, but was denied by a smart stop by Louis Rogers.
Five minutes later Okojie tried his luck again and then Chi stopper Ryan Young did well to gather a Craig Norman effort.
Next Clack found himself one on one with Rogers following a precision pass from Haitham but the visiting keeper impressed once more and denied the No.7 for a second time.
There were chances at the other end. Okojie had a shot on the turn diverted for a corner and an unmarked Shaun Loft, on for Tayler Maddock, headed wide of the right hand post.
Matt Maclean picked up a yellow card in the game’s first talking point when he caught Matt Axell with a high tackle.
Axell got a super shot off moments later after good work by George Way before Dave Herbert stung Rogers’ gloves with a fierce strike that was turned round the upright.
Okojie forced Young into a save in the first opportunity of the second half.
Bailo Camara followed Maclean into Mr Sargeant’s notebook on 51 minutes for a deliberate handball.
Axell and Rob Hutchings both had efforts for the home side around the hour mark. Axell’s strike deflected into Roger’s hands and Hutchings’ one whistled wide after he beat two men on a mazy run.
The Chi left back was next forced into a perfect last ditch tackle in his defensive duties, with Okojie bearing down on goal. Only another well-timed intervention, from Lewis this time, prevented Uckfield taking the lead.
Next Clack delivered a lovely ball to Way only for the midfielder to head off target when he really should have scored.
City continued to press and Rogers had to have his wits about him to punch clear a Lewis cross into the box.
In what was a feisty affair at times the visitors were reduced to men with five minutes of normal time to play when Camara picked up a second yellow for an off the ball incident.
Chi pressed again and might have gone in front after a goal-mouth scramble but Herbert couldn’t get the ball into the net with a clever back-heel.
Super sub Sammy Ndlovu, who scored the 84th minute equaliser against Peacehaven earlier in the month, played his part again in another dramatic late goal when in stoppage time the tricky winger drove into the penalty area past a defender and forced a corner. Fellow substitute Ellis Martin swung the ball in and there was Peake to head home, much to the euphoria of the home fans and players alike.
Chichester might have added a second goal after Clack passed to Ndlovu but his touch was a little heavy and Rogers managed to get to the ball first.
The win extends City’s lead at the top of the table to nine points with nine league games to go.
Next to visit the Countrywide Gas Services Stadium at Oaklands Park are Eastbourne United on Saturday 2nd March (Kick Off 3pm).
Chichester – Young, Lewis, Hutchings, Axell, Peake, Cody, Clack, Herbert, Haitham, Way, Iordache. Subs: Martin, Williams, Biggs, Dunn, Ndlovu
Updated 19:01 - 12 Mar 2019 by Andy Bell