Chichester City’s bosses reflected on making club history in the FA Vase – and vowed to enjoy the run to the full.
The Oaklands Park team are just three wins from Wembley after reaching the last 16 of the national competition for the first time, although they face a stiff test if they’re to make the quarter-finals.
Their 2-1 fourth-round win at Combined Counties League side Horley means they’ll now visit Cheshire to play in-form North West Counties League Premier Division 1874 Northwich in round five on Saturday, February 3, and will be regarded as the underdogs.
City assistant manager Graeme Gee, No2 to Miles Rutherford, said there was a buzz around the club and he was delighted for the players, fans and everyone who helped behind the scenes at the club that they had an extended Vase run to savour.
“We had a huge setback at Christmas when we were given a bit of a lesson at home to Pagham and lost heavily, but since then we have changed the team around game to game and have done well, winning at Lancing in the league, at Horley in the FA Vase and now at Horsham YMCA in the RUR Cup.
“It was a heavy pitch at Horley and it turned into quite a battle but we did well and deserved to get through.
“We were able to dual-sign Steve Hutchings from Moneyfields and he and Scott Jones did well together up front.
“Now we’re in the last 16 and I must admit at the moment we don’t know too much about 1874 Northwich. We are not favourites by any means but we’ll go up there, probably travelling up the day before, and give it a real go. It should be a great occasion for everyone connected with the club.”
Chi City skipper Dan Hegarty said: “It was a very tough game as we knew it would be. They were a decent side. But there were some good performances from all of the team and we managed to get the win in the end and we’re into the next round.
“The pitch made it difficult for both sides. There was obviously a lot on the line and both teams went for it. We had to get stuck in and put pressure on them and in the end it was all worth it because we’re in the next round.
“Everyone at the club is absolutely buzzing. It’s a really exciting time and we don’t fear anyone. Everyone’s on a similar level to us and on the day if we’re better than them we’ll go on and win the game. We’ll see where our future goes.”
City have already earned £3,900 from their three Vase victories this season – and there’s £2,250 up for grabs for winners in the next round. They have attracted a sponsor for the Northwich trip – Portsmouth-based A-Boss Scaffolding, run by former Chi City player James Lacey.
Gee said focus now would switch to the Southern Combination premier campaign, in which City must keep in touch with the leading pack to give themselves a chance of promotion to the new-look Bostik League for next season.
Rutherford, Gee and coach Danny Potter take Chi to Hassocks on Saturday looking for three points to keep them in the picture.
They also have an RUR Cup semi-final to look forward to after goals by Sam Ndlouv and Kaleem Haitham gave them a 2-0 last-eight win at YMCA on Tuesday night.
Concerns remain over frontman Jones’ fitness – he has a recurring muscular problem with his back that needs careful monitoring. And with new striker Scott Murfin cup-tied and unavailable for Vase games, they may need to borrow Hutchings from Moneyfields again when they head to Northwich.
STEVE BONE & IAN WORDEN