Report: Chichester City 2-3 Whyteleafe
A nice trip to the very pleasant West Sussex cathedral city of Chichester for Whyteleafe on Tuesday evening. Although a relative modest sixty-mile trip by road, traffic conditions can make that seem like a much longer journey.
Negotiating the modest, yet tricky, gyratory system in the centre of Chichester, is also a bit of a challenge. I did about ten laps of it before finding my way into the ground between the tennis courts, more by luck and desperation than anything else.
Newly promoted Chichester City were our opponents and they have come up as champions of the Southern Combination Premier division, winning it at a canter by nine clear points from Horsham YMCA. After an opening day victory, away to big -pending Ramsgate (by BetVictor South East standards), they clearly needed to be taken seriously.
That’s the thing about Leafe boss, Harry Hudson and his assistant, Calum McFarlane. They treat everyone with the utmost respect and Chichester, or as the locals call them ‘Chi City’, would provide a stern test for Whyteleafe. Despite the great team performance on Saturday in the home 2-2 to Herne Bay, it still felt almost like a defeat.
Best laid plans have a habit of falling apart, or, er, not going to plan and so it was on Tuesday evening. A speculative hoof upfield by a Chichester defender was headed into his own net by centre-back Ricardo Thompson - in the first minute!
That wasn’t the start we were hoping for against a high-pressing Chichester side. However, suspicions that Harry’s 2019/2020 Leafe side has a bit of added steel and determination about them appear correct. They picked themselves up and got on with the job and went searching for the equaliser.
A cat and mouse affair, for most of the first half, with our midfield trio once again performing very nicely and Renedie Masumpu looking very lively down the left-hand side. To their credit though, Chichester remained resolute and well-organised at the back while also more than able to mount counter attacks of their own.
The impressive Antonio Walker-Barth looked to have got the Leafe equaliser with a great shot that looked goalbound, but it wasn’t to be. However, the game was a very entertaining one. Leafe’s equaliser did come in the 22nd minute though and what a breathtaking one it was.
A free-kick to Leafe from what looked like 35-yards out. Up stepped young striker, Ronnie Sobowale and he hit a Howitzer of a shot that seemed to happen in slow motion as many of the crowd watched open-mouthed. One of those ‘did I really just see that?’ moments. Bang, the ball was in from the moment it left Ronnie’s right boot and was still accelerating when it hit the back of the onion bag. The ‘Chi’ goalie beaten all ends up. Wow. What a strike.
Although Chichester were a formidable opponent there was always a feeling, I think, that Leafe would get something out of the game. However, two other things happened in the remainder of the first half that did their best to upset things. Firstly, our centre midfielder, Bentley Graham, who had started the game brightly, limped off in the 26th minute, forcing Harry into a little revamp, that saw our Saturday goalscorer, Corie Andrews on in his stead, while Chichester re-took the lead in the 41st minute from a close range, scrappy goal by Scott Jones to go in 2-1 up at the interval.
The opening ten minutes of the second period was nip and tuck with both teams re-grouping and having chances, Chichester centre forward Jones rifling a shot that pulled a magnificent save from Leafe keeper, Tyler McCarthy after 49 minutes. However, that man Sobowale came up with another equaliser in the 57thminute this time not quite as spectacular as his opener, although it was a neat flick, to make it 2-2 and the prospect of a grandstand last half hour.
To be honest, Chichester, although an impressive side, seemed to be deflated by our second equaliser and Leafe sensed a winner. A penalty to Leafe and surely Ronnie would convert for a winner and his hat-trick? Clearly, ‘Chi’ keeper, Steven Mowthorpe hadn’t read the script, diving smartly low down to his right to deny Ronnie the spoils.
Still Whyteleafe pressed for the winning goal and substitute Jordan Clarke, back from injury, impressed along with Bentley’s replacement, young Corie Andrews, coming into the game. Good to see fans player of last season, Matt O’Donoghue back to his bombing forward, overlapping best. If a breakthrough was coming, it was going to stem from our right…
A brilliant mazy run by Clarke in the 89th minute resulted in a powerfully driven low cross that pinballed off the left leg of hapless Chichester centre back, Pashley and into the net, leaving his keeper beaten and his team-mates in despair. Leafe players, bench and fans went wild with delight.
There was still a nervous three minutes of extra time to survive though, but despite a couple scares, the Leafe defence held firm and unlike Saturday didn’t give us any late, late drama.
A superb game of football, a real ‘whodunit’-style thriller right until the final whistle and a truly positive advert for the quality of the BetVictor South East league. The result was great, for Leafe, as were the three points to take home to Surrey, but I think the most impressive thing, other than Ronnie’s goal of the season contender, was the guts and determination shown by the Leafe. Make no mistake, Chichester are going to surprise a few teams, so to beat them at their ground is a major achievement and show of intent. Leafe now up to fifth in the table. Early days though, of course.
Whyteleafe have a break from league action this Saturday and are in FA Cup action away to Cray Valley PM – another side newly promoted to our league this season – and that will be another tough one, while on Bank Holiday Monday we entertain Guernsey at Church Road – 3pm. Hope to see you there.
WHYTELEAFE LINE UP: 1 Tyler McCarthy 2 Mannie Mensah 3 Matt O’Donoghue 4 Nathan Campbell 5 Ricardo Thompson 6 Corey Holder 7 Martin Sontan (sub Jordan Clarke 74’) 8 Bentley Graham (sub. Corie Andrews 25’) 9 Ronnie Sobowale (sub Tyrese Sutherland 83’) 10 Antonio Walker-Barth 11 Renedie Masumpu