It wasn’t as slick as the one the Chi right back scored midweek against Steyning Town in the RUR Cup, but important nonetheless, and some fine saves by Bridges No1 Mitch Bromage and a couple of goal-line clearances to deny Ben Mendoza and Kaleem Haitham prevented the home side from adding to their tally.
Haitham was the only change to the starting XI that lined up to face Steyning last time out, replacing Ethan Prichard who suffered a groin injury in that cup tie. The hosts came into the match on the back of a dip in Isthmian south east form over the festive period – a goalless draw at Lancing in the first game after Christmas, and a 1-0 defeat away against East Grinstead in the first encounter of the New Year.
Three Bridges lost 4-3 to VCD Athletic at home in their previous league game, conceding two injury time goals, after beating Whitehawk 1-0 away in that other dramatic match which featured five red cards with video highlights, and lowlights, going viral attracting over five million views.
As a consequence, Bridges had three players suspended for this game at Oaklands Park. When Chichester and their opponents met in the reverse fixture in early October Mason Doughty scored an 80th minute worldie to settle things, following a catalogue of first-class saves from keeper Dan Smith which kept the home side in the game.
Here, Bridges had the opening opportunity when Tad Bromage, back after injury, headed Ryan Brackpool’s long throw-in over the bar with barely a minute played. Ben Pashley and Callum Overton then hooked up at the other end to win the first corner. Rob Hutchings whipped this in deep to the back post where Lewis Hyde wasn’t able to keep his header down.
Davidson broke the deadlock after Mendoza and Overton combined. The Three Bridges keeper stretched out a glove to Overton’s effort but slipped as Davidson got something on the loose ball and steered it beyond Bromage.
Haitham fed Mendoza and the No10’s effort was blocked by defenders before Emmett Dunn fouled Brannon O’Neill, who picked himself up and delivered the set-piece only for Hyde to head away. Next, Haitham did well to hold off Curtis Gayler and then found Dunn with a cheeky backheel. The Canadian was impeded and Hutchings failed to pick out a teammate with his delivery.
A super diag from Pashley to Davidson got his fellow defender away down the right and into the box but he couldn’t beat Bromage this time. Chi keeper Kieran Magee’s lovely kick instigated a move down the other flank moments later before the shot-stopper was out smartly some distance away from his area to tidy up.
Pashley was booked 21 minutes in just before a looping effort almost caught Bromage out. The visitors’ goalie flapped at the ball which fell to Dunn with the Canadian heading narrowly wide. Dan Perry’s touch for Bridges might have troubled Magee, but it didn’t come off for him. Overton pulled a decent save out of Bromage at the mid-point following nice work by man of the match Lloyd Rowlatt and Mendoza, before Hyde wasn’t far off with another header.
O’Neill tried to lift the ball over Magee from long range on 28 minutes; Mendoza had a fierce cross gathered by Bromage; and Pashley cleared a Gayler set-play. Neat defending from Hutchings saw off Giani Ashley and a clever twist by Mendoza brought a foul from Michael Wilson and a talking to by the ref. Rowlatt fizzed one wide of the mark on the half hour latching on to Mendoza’s cut back before the hosts forced a series of corners ahead of the interval.
Overton’s cracking header was turned over for the first of these and Bromage palmed the next one away for another. The Bridges keeper then got behind a lovely Davidson effort that popped up into his midriff and made a finger-tips stop to deny Dunn with the last attempt of the half. Davidson got Chi going after the re-start with a fine run and cross which was diverted, and Perry flashed a header wide for the away team.
Tricky work from Haitham opened up an opportunity for Hutchings to shoot. Bromage couldn’t hold on to his effort, but Overton wasn’t able to get a decent connection as he pounced. Bridges countered only for O’Neill to send in a poor delivery before Overton headed off target and Magee claimed a Gayler free-kick easily enough.
Davidson then put an end to a quick move by the visitors and a series of crisp Chi passes led to Rowlatt almost getting in only for Tad Bromage to make a telling challenge. Dunn joined Pashley in the referee’s notebook just after the hour for a foul on substitute Ben Bacon. Gayler whacked the subsequent set-piece, pulling a save out of Magee.
It might have been 2-0 on 68 minutes when after a defence splitting run Mendoza squared the ball to Haitham whose shot was headed off the line by O’Neill. Gayler fired one over as Three Bridges pressed and Haitham did a defender with a great piece of skill only to be upended – nothing doing, according to the ref.
Overton then headed over a Mendoza cross; the ball wouldn’t sit up for Jamie Horncastle in the area; and Mendoza had an effort cleared off the line with 10 to go. Next, Magee gathered James Young’s cross and teammates blocked a Gayler shot on the turn. Good feet by Haitham as he danced into the box allowed him to wallop an attempt which the keeper saved before another speculative effort from Gayler wasn’t fooling Magee.
As the clock ticked down Tad Bromage impeded Rowlatt just outside the area. Mendoza played his kick short to Rowlatt and the pair worked the ball between them to win a number of corners. Scott Jones, who’d replaced Overton, pressurised the Bridges keeper in the third minute of added time and Haitham fizzed the last shot of the game over.
Chi, who now have the second meanest defence in their league, welcome Isthmian premier division side Folkestone Invicta to Oaklands Park on Tuesday (Jan 18) in the next round of the Velocity Trophy (7:45pm).
Chichester – Magee, Davidson, Hutchings, Horncastle, Hyde. Pashley, Rowlatt, Dunn, Overton, Mendoza, Haitham. Subs: (Carroll, Jones, Oakwell-Boulton, Madhani, Dellaud).