Jones is hero as Chichester City topple Ashford United
Scott Jones came off the bench to grab a late Chichester City winner in this five-goal thriller at home to Ashford United.
Ben Mendoza and Callum Overton had given Chichester a 2-0 lead at the break but a second half double by Roberto Ratti made it all square before Jones squeezed the ball over the line with three minutes of normal time to go.
The Kent side came into the match top of the table following seven league wins in eight games. Chi had also put together a decent sequence in November, unbeaten in seven games in all competitions until a 2-0 away defeat at Hastings mid-week on the last day of the month.
Miles Rutherford & Co went with the same starting XI that lined up against Hastings with Jones in the dugout alongside Lewis Hyde and U23 players Charlie Oakwell-Boulton and Morgan Mockford-Allott. Ryan Davidson was called into the first bit of defending, heading away a cross which Ratti latched on to forcing Kieran Magee into an early save.
The home side, as was the case against Hastings, had long throw-ins to contest and two minutes in Bradley Simms launched one into the box which nicked off a teammate and out for a goal kick, Tommy Fagg was caught offside before a lovely twist and turn from Ethan Prichard got him away from his marker only to lose the ball.
Next Lloyd Rowlatt made a super challenge and Mendoza played in Prichard whose shot was turned on to the post. The ball fell to top scorer Overton but he hit his effort off target. Left back Rob Hutchings was then dispossessed but recovered well to keep the ball in play and deny the Nuts and Bolts a corner.
Mendoza and Tyrone Madhani got Chi into the opposition’s penalty area on 10 minutes only for keeper Tyler McCarthy to cover and the same players linked up once more with Mendoza dragging an attempt wide after finding a pocket of space. Mendoza was at it again a minute later but struck his shot into McCarthy’s gloves.
Another Simms throw-in caused the hosts problems and Ratti had the ball in the back of the net only to be flagged offside. Madhani then whipped in a great delivery towards Davidson at the far post but he couldn’t get a connection under pressure. Jay May beat Ben Pashley, perhaps unfairly, on the quarter hour mark and Magee dealt with his effort easily enough.
Hutchings’ attempt to play the ball past a player didn’t come off and the No3 conceded a free kick in a dangerous area that Josh Wisson headed over. An inviting cross from the right was also prodded over moments later by May. Chi skipper Jamie Horncastle then did well to intercept the final ball following neat link up play between Tash Kwayie and Fagg.
Rowlatt got a strong block in and combined with Horncastle and Hutchings to break up another Nuts and Bolts move at the mid-point. The visitors probed again and this time May glanced Kwayie’s delivery into Magee’s arms.
Fagg fired one high on 28 minutes after Horncastle cleared another Kwayie cross before Mendoza broke the deadlock after half an hour of pulsating football when a Hutchings’ ball was controlled superbly by Prichard who teed up Mendoza for a telling finish with his first goal since joining from Bognor.
And it was 2-0 four minutes later when Prichard found Overton with a delicious cross that the Chi striker headed beyond McCarthy. Ashford might have pulled one back immediately but for a fine Magee stop and then Kwayie fluffed his lines in the six yard box.
Fagg hit a wayward shot in the next attack and a deliberate handball by Simms earned Chichester a set piece which Madhani took and defenders headed away. Overton and Prichard combined down the left but there was no advanced player when the cross came over.
Madhani wasn’t far off with a free kick in the 44th minute and Rowlatt forced McCarthy into a stunning reflex save as he palmed the midfielder’s effort over. Madhani took the resulting corner and McCarthy punched the ball away on the half time whistle.
The second period was full of drama, if lacking in the tempo and intensity of the first one. Wisson headed a Simms long throw wide in the 46th minute and then moments later Emmett Dunn and Overton exchanged passes to play Prichard in for a shot that curled narrowly over.
In Chi’s next raid Davidson fed Overton who moved the ball on to Mendoza whose cross-cum-shot failed to trouble McCarthy. Ashford won a corner in the 54th minute which Wisson headed into the danger area only for a teammate to steer off target.
Davidson got a firm tackle in on Kwayie and then Wisson nodded a corner into Magee’s arms. A piece of skill by Kwayie helped him elude a challenge but there was too much on his through ball to Ratti. Nice defending by Hutchings and a good block from Horncastle denied Fagg before Magee was out commandingly to claim a cross.
The Nuts and Bolts were reduced to ten when May dealt out some afters to Davidson following a nasty challenge on the Chi right back. The player disadvantage however seemed to spur the visitors on and Ratti reduced the deficit in the 68th minute heading home a Simms throw from the left with Magee only able to get something on it.
Jones was introduced for Madhani with 15 to go to, unsurprisingly, chants of “Isle of Wight, Isle of Wight, Isle of Wight”. Dunn had a go with a header after Overton was fouled by Liam Friend and Hutchings whipped in the free kick. And then an uncharacteristic mistake by Horncastle, who has been in fine form of late, gifted Ratti an equaliser as his pass back to Magee was under hit. Ratti accepted this early Christmas present and slotted the ball beyond the Chi No1.
Things heated up in the last 10 minutes. Overton couldn’t quite find Jones after slick passes between Rowlatt and Hutchings; Kwayie missed a free-header; and Dunn struck an effort high and wide. When it looked like Chi had blown a lead again and three precious points substitute Jones found himself in the right place at the right time to knock Ashford off top spot and earn the Sussex side a sixth consecutive win at Oaklands Park reacting first to Hutchings’ blocked shot and just about slotting the loose ball over the line.
Miles Rutherford’s men welcome a Brighton & Hove Albion side to Oaklands Park for a Sussex Senior Challenge Cup tie on Tuesday (7th December) (7:45pm) and are back in Isthmian south east action away at VCD Athletic on Saturday (3pm).
Chichester – Magee, Davidson, Hutchings, Horncastle, Mendoza, Pashley, Rowlatt, Dunn, Overton, Madhani, Prichard Subs: (Jones, Hyde, Oakwell-Boulton, Monkford-Allott).