Chichester City held on to pick up three points by winning 1-0 against title contenders Peacehaven after battling with ten men for the best part of an hour in a match between second and third in the SCFL premier.
Scott Jones scored the game’s only goal – a fantastic header in the 51st minute.
The Chi management team of Miles Rutherford, Graeme Gee and Danny Potter were full of praise for the team’s second half performance against very good opposition.
“That was a great win. We played nearly 60 minutes with ten men and we created chances, scored the winner and defended so well. Scott Jones scored an outstanding goal and the Chi Ultras were again unreal,” said Potter.
The win, City’s fourth in a row, keeps the pressure up on league leaders Haywards Heath.
Peacehaven dominated the early passages of play following a lacklustre start from the hosts. City keeper Ant Ender had to have his wits about him when Cameron Wiltshire whipped a set-piece in from the left. Then a poor throw out by the Chi No1 put Ruben French in trouble and Jack Lee needed a strong header to clear the danger as the resultant free kick fizzed in.
Josh Clack got the home side some respite with a couple of runs down the left and then had his team’s first real effort on target in the 19th minute after good work from Scott Murfin, making his first start in a second spell at the club after signing from Pagham.
Moments later Dave Herbert troubled Erikson Aga with a fierce left-foot shot that the goalie did well to get down to.
Herbert was seemingly obstructed on the edge of the box following a nice through-ball but the referee was having none of it.
At the other end Lee conceded a free-kick and picked up a booking for his trouble. A super set-piece from Felipe Lira smacked against the bar and Ben Pashley cleared for a corner.
A chance fell to Frazer Massen before Conor Sidwell missed an opportunity to prod in from close range.
For the home side Clack sent one into the side-netting on 34 minutes just before the game’s big talking point when Martin was dismissed for a heavy challenge on Wiltshire that on another day might have been a yellow. The referee took his time over the decision, consulting with assistant Paul Barratt, only to brandish a red.
A minute or so before the break in-form striker Josh Marshall had a good chance for the visitors but he delayed after a slick pass played him in and Chi defenders dealt with things.
Boss Rutherford clearly had words with his team at the interval and 60 seconds after the restart French’s corner was flicked on by Murfin to Lee who could have done better.
Jones tried an audacious bicycle kick from another corner.
The goal from Chi’s leading scorer four minutes later was something else. Clack whipped in a free-kick and there was Jones to find the back of the net with a bullet header – his fourth goal in three games.
A young Peacehaven side struggled to break down Chichester’s stubborn resistance. However, the last ten minutes plus five added on for stoppages put Chi fans through the wringer.
Lee, a stand-out man of the match, headed clear a drive from Sidwell. Next Ender got a glove to a close range shot that was then somehow blocked on the line.
Sidwell had another go but pulled his shot wide, Reilly Grant blasted over and then deep into time added on Ender pulled off a world-class save, tipping the ball away to protect his fourth clean sheet.
It was quite a debut match for Murfin. He said: “It’s great to be back. We’re really pleased to get the win. That’s the most important thing. I’m looking forward to playing minutes and pushing on and finishing as high as we can. Today was hard work. All the lads dug in and there was a really good team spirit.”
Chi travel to Kent on Saturday for their FA Vase third-round match against Whitstable Town.
Chichester: Ender, French, Martin, Lee, Williams, Hegarty, Pashley, Clack, Murfin, Herbert, Jones. Subs: Hucthings, Kanjanda, Haitham, Ndlovu.