History makers Chichester City are being urged to “stay on the train” after they cruised into the second round of the FA Cup for the first time ever.
Not so long ago the Oaklands Park club was on the brink of going out of business.
But, following last weekend’s 2-1 win at Bowers & Pitsea and Monday’s draw which gifted them a bye, Chi are now into round two of the world’s oldest knockout competition for the first time in the club’s history.
It marks a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for City who are flying high in their first ever season in Isthmian South East after winning the SCFL Premier last season.
The challenge for the club is to now keep their feet on the floor – starting tomorrow with a trip to Hythe Town in the league (3pm).
Coach Darin Killpartrick said:
“This journey continues. We want to stay on the train and not get off but we’ve got to keep the players grounded.
“We’ve got league games to play. You have to enjoy these moments though because they don’t come around that often. I want everyone to enjoy this occasion. However, we still need to concentrate on the league.”
The last and only previous time a City side had made it to the first round of the world’s oldest knockout competition was in 1960 when they lost to Bristol City 11-0.
Now they’ve done it again after battling through six rounds of qualifying, making them the last club standing who started their cup adventure in August in the extra preliminary round.
The underdogs got off to a dream start at Bowers & Pitsea when Matt Axell put them ahead with a 15th minute penalty after Josh Clack was impeded by Bowers skipper Martyn Stokes.
Chichester doubled their lead through a freak goal on 20 minutes when a clearance cannoned off Kaleem Haitham and looped beyond the keeper.
The Essex side looked for a way back into the match but were denied by City keeper Steve Mowthorpe until bagging a consolation in added time.
For Axell, a 35-year-old who nearly called time on his playing career in the summer, it was a very special moment.
“I thought the opportunity to reach the first round proper had passed me by in my career, to get there this season completely vindicates the decision to carry on playing”.
“It’s potentially missing out on these sort of moments that makes it so hard to stop – that was by far my best day in football!”
On the game, the midfielder felt Chi were obviously afforded the rub of the green in how they went ahead but ultimately deserved the victory.
“You start to think it’s going to be your day when you get a penalty early on, then the second goal not long after in the manner we did but I don’t think with how the game played out anyone could argue we didn’t deserve that bit of luck.
“We didn’t play particularly well, on the ball. I felt we could have controlled the game a bit better in possession in the second half.
“But understandably, nerves set in and we didn’t want to take too many risks which naturally invited them on to us.”
The bye means Chi now have a month to focus on the league before returning to FA Cup action.
It also means the club win the £36,000 first round prize money without breaking sweat – although Chi officials vowed to make a donation to the correct organisation involved with the continuation of Bury Football Club, whose demise gifted City the bye.
Speaking after the draw, Chi coach Danny Potter said:
“It’s been very unfortunate circumstances for them.
“If they start a phoenix club from last year they’ll need their money to go their next journey to get back up the league.”