Miles Rutherford has revealed his personal highlight of Chichester City’s big day out at Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup.
Rutherford’s part-timers did themselves proud in their second round clash at Prenton Park before eventually bowing out 5-1 to the League One side in front of the BT Sport cameras.
Any fears his players would freeze on the big occasion were quickly dispelled in the opening minutes as Chi – the lowest ranked team still left in the competition – gave as good as they got to hold their opponents to a goalless stalemate at the break.
In the end, the physicality and fitness of Micky Mellon’s Merseyside men paid off and a glut of goals ended Chi’s money-spinning run which started in August at the extra preliminary round stage.
Morgan Ferrier netted an 11-minute hat-trick after the break, bookended between goals by Corey Blackett-Taylor, but the West Sussex minnows got the last goal when Ryan Peake got his head to fellow sub Matt Axell’s corner.
And it was the Chichester players and management team dancing on the pitch at the end in front of their vocal travelling army that will stay with proud boss Rutherford for the rest of his life.
Rutherford told The Post: “The highlight was seeing the players enjoying themselves, and the supporters too.
“The players and the supporters are the club.
“The worst part was telling a couple of players they are not playing and then not putting on all the subs.
“I wanted everyone to get some game time but you can’t do that.
“It’s a shame because as a manager you want everyone to be part of it.
“But to see the players’ faces, and the supporters’ faces, was absolutely fantastic.”
Almost 500 supporters sang their hearts out in the away end and Rutherford admits Chi’s next task is to turn that following into regulars at their Oaklands Park home. The £150,000 brought in by the run will secure the immediate security of the club but Rutherford wants a sustainable future.
He said: “The main thing is for us is to get local people to come and support us. We know that’s hard but we have tried to show that it is not a bad standard of football we are playing in.
“It’s important we get a bigger following because the size of a club is its fanbase.
“At our level you need to have 200 to 250 people through the gate at least and above us you need 500. We have gone from 80 fans in the Southern Combination last year and we need to get more people through the gate otherwise we won’t be able to survive.
“But the good thing is we will be able to survive next year because of the FA Cup run but we’re also hoping we get more support here as well.
“We loved seeing everyone there at the weekend and we would like to see more. I think there would have been a lot more if we had played at Wycombe [lost to Rovers in a replay].”
Chi players and fans | Pictures: Neil Holmes