Chichester City beaten by late East Grinstead winner
East Grinstead’s Merrick James-Lewis came off the bench to grab a late winner as Chichester City suffered defeat in their first game of 2022.
Miles Rutherford’s side came into the match on the back of a decent run of form in the Isthmian south east division with six wins, three draws and one loss in the previous ten league encounters – that only defeat coming away at front-runners Hastings United.
Connor Cody and Lewis Hyde replaced the absent Ryan Davidson and skipper Jamie Horncastle at right back and centre back respectively, in a starting XI otherwise unchanged from the one that drew 0-0 with Lancing last time out.
Chi keeper Kieran Magee was called into action in the opening five minutes punching away to Alex Battle whose subsequent shot on the swivel Magee comfortably claimed. Captain Ben Pashley then did well up against Worthing loanee Omar Folkes but after good upper body strength his pass to Emmett Dunn was cut out. Cody, Callum Overton and Ben Mendoza hooked up next only for an over-hit final ball towards Ethan Prichard to go out for a goal kick.
Richard Pingling probed down the left flank for the hosts but couldn’t get beyond Cody before a neat one-two between Mendoza and Kaleem Haitham earned the visitors the first corner of the match. Lloyd Rowlatt sent this over and East Grinstead cleared easily enough. A lovely cross-field ping from Cody to Haitham got the Chi No11 in for a shot which Sam Freeman saved and Overton spurned the best opportunity so far pulling an effort wide following good play from Rob Hutchings, Haitham and Rowlatt.
Two crosses were then headed away by Wasps defenders before Prichard was picked out by Haitham but the youngster couldn’t find a connection. Folkes had a delivery headed away at the other end; Hutchings hooked another clear; and a diving header by Hyde averted the danger once again in a good spell for East Grinstead who otherwise seemed happy to sit in.
In the 21st minute Freeman palmed a fierce Haitham effort round the post for a corner that Overton got something on but the keeper managed to gather. A chance came and went for Battle on the half hour mark as the hosts countered and Magee was out smartly to clear ahead of Battle following a through ball from Andrew Briggs. Pingling’s cross-shot then swerved wide of the mark and Overton ran on to Haitham’s pass but skewed his effort too.
Magee got behind Folkes’ shot when the East Grinstead striker cut inside following a neat combination between Battle and Briggs. Prichard hit one wide for Chi and a Briggs’ free-kick came to nothing after Pashley caught Folkes. Prichard almost did a defender with a slick piece of skill five minutes before the break and then a clever Chi short corner might have been capitalised on but when Haitham put the ball back in no one was able to steer it home.
Magee just about managed to stay in his area to claim at the other end and Hutchings’ long-ranger wasn’t far off with the last kick of the half. A foul on Emmett Dunn led to a Chi set-piece which Mendoza thumped into Freeman’s midriff in the first minute after the restart. And then Magee reacted quickly to Briggs’ downward header.
Pingling ghosted past Cody on a nice run down the left wing but wasted his delivery before Prichard’s cross was headed clear for a throw-in. Referee Will Briers gave Dunn and Folkes a stern talking to on 52 minutes and both players got away without a yellow card after a bit of handbags and sixty seconds later Briggs struck a low free-kick inches wide following a Dunn foul in a dangerous position.
The Canadian cracked one that was blocked and Mendoza pulled a fine save out of Freeman – the East Grinstead shot-stopper getting a strong glove on his effort and turning the ball out for a corner. Tyrone Madhani was introduced for Haitham and was soon in the thick of things whipping a cross in that eluded teammates.
Hyde’s handball gave the hosts another free-kick that Briggs fired high and wide and then Folkes’ shot on the turn cannoned back off an upright on the hour mark. Folkes was at it again six minutes later a got his side on the counter attack with a neat pass to Pingling, however, Chi somehow cleared their lines. Briggs then found Battle who should have scored but Magee managed to save.
Madhani walloped a shot into an East Grinstead defender just before Chichester made a double substitution with Scott Jones and Eric-Georges Dellaud coming on for Overton and Prichard. A slip by Hyde next gave the home side another chance but Cody and Dunn tidied up. East Grinstead also rang the changes as James-Lewis and Seidou Sanogo replaced Folkes and Miles Cornwell in the 72nd minute.
A super cross from Cody was inches away from Jones with an opponent just beating the Chi sub to the ball and heading it out for a corner. Briggs went into Mr Briers’ notebook for failing to retreat 10 yards at a Chi free-kick and then Jones flashed a header just wide with 11 minutes to go.
The hosts made their final change bringing on Szyymon Kowalczyk for Battle and the East Grinstead substitute was instrumental in the move that led to the sole goal of the game with James-Lewis drilling a shot past beyond Magee in the 82nd minute. Chichester pressed for an equaliser but the hosts were in no mood for charity.
Pashley fizzed a fierce low cross over that no player could get a telling touch on; Dunn lifted an attempt over the bar following good work by Jones down the right; and Hutchings also sent in a delivery which came to nothing deep into time added on. So, Chi dropped points away at one of the bottom three teams for the second match in a row on a day when only one of the top five sides recorded a win.
Rutherford’s men remain ninth in the league and welcome third placed Herne Bay to Oaklands Park on Saturday 8th January (3pm).
Chichester – Magee, Cody, Hutchings, Hyde, Mendoza, Pashley, Rowlatt, Dunn, Overton, Prichard, Haitham. Subs: (Jones, Madhani, Dellaud, Farrier, Carroll).