Burgess Hill travelled to Oaklands Park in fine fettle indeed, winning 5 games on the spin and rocketing up the table. It’s a shame January doesn’t last forever…
The Hillians, donning there blue and black third kit made the brighter start, some good harrowing of the keeper by Tom Chalaye forced an error, Chalaye played it across to Martyn Box who was off balance for a shot so he laid it off to Pat Harding but Chichester managed to get players back quickly and Harding’s effort was blocked. The start was fast and furious, at times it felt more like a basketball match with one attack after another. Such was this, it felt inevitable a goal was coming. Unfortunately it came for the hosts. Ethan Pritchard played a delightful through ball into the path of Callum Overton and he cooly lifted the ball over Will Huffer and into the back of the net. The goal did little to stop the hectic nature of the first half, Martyn Box was looking to make it 4 in 4 but his goalbound shot was well blocked by a physically imposing Chichester defence. The Hillians midfield were struggling to cope with Pritchard and the Chi man stung the palms of Will Huffer in the 32nd minute. Just minutes later, Huffer was this time beaten again. It was a very well worked move down the right hand side which saw Pritchard get in-behind Nic D’Arienzo and pull the ball back for Lloyd Rowlatt 15 yards out who passed his effort across Huffer and right in the far corner to double City’s lead. Jay Lovett’s men were really being punished by not being clinical enough. Just before the break, Chi made a hash of clearing their lines and Pat Harding crossed for Martyn Box, he got across his man and was only 6 yards out but he steered his effort wide of the post, to the agony of the plethora of travelling Hillians camped behind the goal.
The Hillians knew that an early goal would be crucial if they had any chance of staging a comeback. Straight after the restart, Hill won a free kick on the edge of the box just 4 minutes into the second half. Connor Tighe stepped up to take it but the keeper made a smart save to deny him. Connor was starting the second half brightly, he had another effort just after but this one failed to trouble Magee. The game then fell into a lull with our hosts making it extremely difficult for us to get into a rhythm as we fought to get back in the game. They did a good job of keeping danger man, Tom Chalaye quiet but he burst into life with 20 minutes remaining. He picked up the ball on the edge of the box, breezed past his man and even though he was forced wide, he arrowed a shot which whistled inches wide of Magee’s post. When you need a goal and you need it quick, who do you turn to, to dig you out of a hole? Step forward Pat Harding, of course. Hayden Skerry won a free kick and subsequently took it, it took a deflection which saw the ball spinning up in the air and it fell perfectly for Harding to stab it into the bottom corner to half the deficit. We hadn’t been at our free flowing best on a cold February midweek but could we snatch a point? Charlie Kelly had a great chance to equalise but his sure fire goal was denied by a brilliant block by a Chi defender. There was just enough time for one more chance as the referee gave the Hill a late free kick, Martyn Box looked to curl one into the bottom corner but it grazed the outside of the post and skimmed away, bringing our unbeaten 2022 to an end.
All good things must come to an end and that was the case here. A slow first half coupled with a good opposition means we start a new month with a defeat.
Next up we travel back to Kent where we will face Faversham on Saturday afternoon.