Rowlatt pounces to earn Chichester City a point at Whitehawk

An 81st minute Lloyd Rowlatt equaliser snatched a point for Chichester against county rivals Whitehawk in a frenetic match that Hawks boss Ross Standen described as a “basketball game”.

When the teams met at Oaklands Park in the reverse fixture back in September Chi thumped the visitors 6-1, their highest winning Step 4 margin so far. But here in the opening period Chichester put in a ponderous, subpar performance against a backdrop of cacophonous noise generated by the home fans.

Miles Rutherford & Co made seven changes to the starting XI that faced Isthmian premier league outfit Folkestone Invicta in the third round of the Velocity Trophy midweek. Regular keeper Kieran Magee returned, as did defender Ryan Davidson, top scorer Callum Overton, midfielders Emmett Dunn, Jamie Horncastle and Rowlatt, alongside winger Kaleem Haitham.

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Chichester broke up a first minute attack and a long ball to Overton got them going, only for the No9 to dally too long in his decision making and the opportunity went begging. Davidson and Ben Mendoza then combined and the latter’s cross was hooked awkwardly clear. Next, Ollie Munt was penalised for a foul on Ben Pashley. The ball was rolled to Haitham who opened things up through the middle but should have fed an overlapping Eric-Georges Dellaud down the left.

Chichester City in recent action against Three Bridges / Picture: Neil Holmes

The home side spurned a glorious chance five minutes in when Peter Gregory picked out Jav Splatt, who’d grabbed the consolation goal from the penalty spot in that mauling in the autumn, at the back stick, only for Splatt to fluff his lines this time. A jinking run by Mendoza took him into the box at the other end but the ball nicked off the midfielder and out for a goal kick.

Chi had to reorganise after losing Lewis Hyde to a hamstring injury in the 10th minute. Horncastle dropped back to partner Pashley and Scott Jones entered the fray. The hosts took the lead moments later as Henry Muggeridge sent Gregory on a run down the right flank. Gregory found Harry Reed who teed up Munt for a free header. The home supporters went nuts behind Magee’s goal.

Chichester had further pressure to contend with and Omarr Lawson managed to keep the ball in play and force a throw-in. Reed then did Jones and whipped a cross over which was turned out for a corner. Magee flapped at this but at least got something on it to clear. Searching for a second goal, Reed passed forward to Splatt, however, Davidson got in and tidied up.

A mistake by Jones presented Lekan Orimolusi, on his first start, with an opportunity to get in only for Magee to come out ahead of him and gather. Nice skill from Splatt and a Reed long-ranger gave Chi another scare before Stacey Freeman pinged a pass cross-field to Splatt who flattened Davidson. Mendoza was then bundled over on the edge of the area as the visitors pressed at the mid-point.

His in-swinging set-piece was steered out for Chi’s first corner of the match which came to nothing. Dellaud found Haitham in the next move but the Chi No7 might have volleyed rather than taking a touch. Orimolusi limped off on the half hour to be replaced by Alex Laing before a super Rowlatt pass got Jones away only for a linesman’s flag to go up.

Laing conceded two fouls either side of a cleared Haitham cross and shot that he dragged wide. After a smart twist and turn Chi’s stand-out player Pashley passed to Dellaud who advanced the ball to Haitham but he couldn’t get beyond his opponent. Rowlatt then had a pass cut out before Gregory missed a sitter – this wouldn’t be the last time a Whitehawk or Chichester player blew a gilt-edged chance.

Pashley dealt with things comfortably with Laing instrumental in a probing exchange and Lawson thumped one against the crossbar with five to go. Sixty seconds later Magee pulled off an outstanding save from close range and teammates bravely blocked the follow-up. An under-hit header back to Magee saw the Chi custodian get to the ball ahead of a couple of Hawks forwards before the visitors wasted a free-kick in a dangerous spot and a subsequent corner on the half time whistle.

A more galvanised Chi got into the game after the break. Haitham had an early delivery cleared and the hosts’ counter fizzled out. Overton might have gambled on Magee’s long kick as Chichester enjoyed an encouraging spell but with no end product. Horncastle got away Leon Redwood’s delivery and Dunn skewed an effort off target after a Jones’ flick-on from Rowlatt’s set-piece.

Jones then missed an opportunity, there would be others too, with his left peg and Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke gratefully gathered the ball. Pashley made a spectacular goal line clearance, another would follow later, and Laing made a hash of his follow-up attempt. Haitham shot straight at Stroomberg-Clarke when clean through and was replaced by Tyrone Madhani on the hour. Madhani and Jones combined neatly, only for the Hawks keeper to claim once more.

His counterpart Magee got to Muggeridge’s cross and on 68 minutes Jones missed a chance to level when Overton’s pinpoint delivery seemingly set things up on a plate. Pashley’s second clearance on the line in the 70th minute was arguably even better than the first, before Laing mishit one again. A superb tackle by Horncastle broke up an attack and then Splatt and Laing got in two-on-one only for Splatt to make a poor pass.

Next, Splatt out-foxed both Davidson and Horncastle but Laing took too long to shoot and defenders smuggled the ball away. Whitehawk would rue these missed opportunities and Rowlatt grabbed the equaliser stabbing home after Madhani’s cross was headed down into his path by Overton.

Madhani had an effort deflected out for a throw-in following good work by Overton; Mendoza fizzed a cross over that no one could get a telling touch to; and Stroomberg-Clarke held on to Jones’ shot after an intelligent reverse pass from Rowlatt. Jones, jinking this way and that, also wasn’t far off with an 85th minute effort.

Mendoza then struck the frame of the goal; Rowlatt fired wide of the mark; and Jones somehow couldn’t tap in an inviting ball from Overton at the back stick. Whitehawk might have nicked it in the fifth minute of the seven added for stoppages, but Magee produced another world class stop. The Chi No1 claimed the resulting corner at the second attempt and denied Splatt after Horncastle slipped.

And with the last move of the match Mendoza got on the end of Rowlatt’s cross but glanced his header just wide. It’s a winless run of seven Isthmian south east league games now for Whitehawk, whereas Chichester have won four, drawn two and lost one in the corresponding period. Next up, Chi welcome fifth-placed Haywards Heath to Oaklands Park on Saturday 29th January (3pm).

Chichester – Magee, Davidson, Dellaud, Horncastle, Hyde, Pashley, Haitham, Dunn, Overton, Rowlatt, Mendoza. Subs: (Jones, Madhani, Conolly, Prichard)