Chichester plead for ‘league replay’ after points deduction

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Chichester City have been rocked by news they have been deducted three points for fielding an ineligible player.

They have been informed by the Sussex League they will face the penalty for fielding Ben Hitchman against Three Bridges on October 16 when he was not registered.

But the league have not awarded the points to Three Bridges, and City hope officials will allow a replay.

The saga has cast a shadow over another decent week for City, in which they beat Eastbourne United in the league then drew with East Grinstead in a county cup tie that will need a replay.

It appears Hitchman filled in the relevant paperwork when he joined in September but the forms were not registered with the league. Girdler told the Observer: “We knew it was (the punishment) been coming but hopefully it will result in a replay. Part of the rules states the opposition have the right to demand a replay.

“We were under the impression from the old regime that he (Hitchman) was signed on and it turns out he wasn’t. It’s not as though we’ve fielded an ineligible player intentionally – we thought he was signed on. But we can’t appeal against the decision.”

As things stand, the points loss means Chichester’s tenth win of the season at the weekend effectively means nothing. It was comfortable 3-0 home victory over bottom side Eastbourne.

Goals from Joseph Briggs, Ben Vassallo and Adrian Brockway sealed the victory and put Chichester level on points with third-placed Pagham. Girdler said: “There’s nothing at all in it and we’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing – we can’t afford to slip up at all. The players have been fantastic with stop-start training because of the weather.”

Saturday’s game at Oaklands Way saw the lowest turnout of the season – with only 36 fans in attendance.

After a declaration that reduced bad language would make for a better atmosphere, Girdler said of the low crowd figure: “I don’t think many people wanted to watch football on Saturday and it wasn’t very well-advertised the game was on.”

At least scoring is not a worry for Girdler – City have scored in their last 13 consecutive matches.

City’s Sussex Senior Cup second-round tie at home to East Grinstead ended 1-1 after extra time. A replay will determine who meets Hailsham in the last 16.

City fell behind after five minutes when Liam Baitup struck from a rebound.

Late on, Luke Killner won a penalty. Michael Turvey’s kick was saved, but Briggs buried the rebound.

MARK ALLAWAY & CHESTER BROWTON