All good things come to an end - and so it is that Chichester City’s fabulous run in the FA Vase is over.
Their dreams of making the last 16 were ended by a 3-1 defeat to Devon side Buckland at Oaklands Park - but they go out with their heads held high after pushing their visitors all the way.
See the best of the ction in photographer Kate Shemilt’s pictures in the gallery above.
After Western League high-flyers Buckland led 2-0 at half-time, Scott Jones’ header midway through the second half gave City and a good-sized home crowd hope, but Buckland snatched another 12 minutes from time to ensure their place in round five.
Miles Rutherford’s team will be gutted to go out after a run that has seen them beat Whitstable, Sheppey, Ash, Canterbury and Newhaven, but they can now can focus on their Southern Combination premier-division campaign, which they return to next week in third spot and pushing for honours.
There was an early scare for Chichester when a cross from the right was cleared for a corner by Jack Lee and it flew a little too close to Dave Hook’s goal for comfort.
Kieran Hartley’s shot into the turf from 20 yards was headed on to the top of the net by Jamie Horncastle in an early chance for the hosts.
City centre-half Lee was booked on five minutes for halting a run by Buckland midfielder Richard Groves. The free-kick caused brief alarm in the City box but a Buckland forward fouled Dan Watts to bring the attack to an end. Then Cliff Walters got into the box from right-back and sent over a cross that no Athletic player could convert.
Jones ran on to a Hartley pass and had sight of goal but his shot across Grant Fisher was palmed away for a corner.
On 12 minutes Jones directed a header goalwards from a Josh Clack free-kick but there was no real power on it. Clack then tried one himself from 22 yards but it was always rising over the bar.
At the other end Lloyd Gardner got into a good position in the City box but his cross-shot went over from a tight angle.
Chichester’s best attack of the opening quarter of the game saw Clack and Hartley both go close with shots at goal, the latter’s fizzing along the ground and into the side netting.
Gardner’s free-kick was spilled at his near post by City keeper Dave Hook for a corner that came to nothing.
Gavin Hammon’s shot on the turn from 15 yards on 24 minutes was way over the bar. But the Devon side took the lead a minute later as Gardner surged clear down the Buckland left and unleashed a superb shot from 25 yards that flew past Hook and into the top corner.
It was almost 1-1 immediately as Jones met a Clack corner on the right with a near-post header that Fisher had to save sharply.
Ellis Martin’s through ball suddenly put Clack in the clear but he was forced wide before shooting at goal, and it was deflected for a corner. City were having plenty of those but Buckland were defending them well.
It was 2-0 on 35 minutes. Another promising City attack broke down and a lightning-quick Buckland break saw Groves run at his man before squaring across the box to Jared Lewington, who controlled it with one touch then finished past the advancing Hook.
Buckland were close to a third when Lewington’s header across goal was almost touched in by Hammon.
Chichester had the ball in the net a couple of minutes before the break but an offside flag was up.
The first chance of the second half went Buckland’s way as Hook had to come out to deny Groves and the loose ball almost fell to the same Buckland player.
Watts caused a problem for keeper Fisher with a high, hanging cross from the right that he had to tip over - then Dan Hegarty looped a header goalwards from the resulting corner that again gave Fisher plenty to think about.
City midfield man Tommy Block was replaced by Chris Hooker - back in the squad after suspension - on 56 minutes.
Three minutes later Jones worked himself some space in the box and slid a low shot beyond the goalkeeper but just wide of the post.
Hartley was booked just after the hour after the referee judged his part in an aerial challenge illegal.
City gave themselves a lifeline on 63 minutes when a beautifully-floated cross to the far post by Hartley was headed back across the keeper and inside the post by Jones.
That lifted City and their supporters and soon Ben Pashley sent in a left-sided cross that was just right for Hegarty, but his glancing header was too close to Fisher.
Rutherford’s team were getting plenty of men forward but one attack ended with Clack shooting wide when he had other options. Another chase forward by Jones came to nothing but ended in a mystery booking for Buckland skipper Liam Head.
Sub Hooker fired a long-range half-volley well over after a nice build-up led by Horncastle.
Horncastle was booked on 73 minutes for fouling Gardner 25 yards from Hook’s goal. Groves curled the free-kick only narrowly over the bar.
Buckland restored their two-goal advantage on 78 minutes as Groves broke down the left and when his shot was saved by the outrushing Hook, Lewington lashed the rebound into the roof of the net past the last defender’s attempt to stop it.
Buckland brought on Karl Green for Nick Rudge as they looked to protect their lead for the final 10 minutes.
Chi sub Jake Goulding had a far-post header from Lee’s cross ruled out - the ball had gone out of play before it was crossed.
Horncastle’s trickery 20 yards out earned him space for a shot on 85 minutes but it was wide. Then Goulding got involved in a bit of handbags with three Buckland players - but the referee sorted it out and no cards were brandished.
Charlie Johansen replaced scorer Gardner in the 88th minute as the clock ticked down on Chi’s chances.
City threw men forward in the final few minutes and almost conceded a fourth as a result but Hook saved them with a terrific double save.
They can now focus back on the SCFL premier-division campaign and they are in home action again next Saturday when Peacehaven visit.
City: Hook, Watts, Pashley, Block, Lee, Martin, Clack, Hegarty, Jones, Horncastle, Hartley. Subs: Williams, Hooker, Edwards, Goulding, Northeast.
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