History-making Chichester City are jubilant at reaching the last 16 of the FA Vase - and say they fear no-one in the next round.
A 2-1 win at Horley Town on Saturday took Chichester City to the fifth round - just three wins from a trip to Wembley for the final - for the first time in their history.
Afterwards Chi 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 hat for 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 can't wait to see who we get in the draw. 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.”
Goals from Harry Williams and Steve Hutchings put City through. They bowed out at this stage last year, losing at home to Buckland Athletic, but put that disappointment behind them with a gutsy performance to reach the next round.
Speaking before the game, Chi boss Miles Rutherford said: “This game is massive for us. If we do well then we can kick on from here.”
Horley manager Glynn Stephens said, “Of course this is a massive game for all involved and credit must go to ourselves and Chichester City FC for reaching the last 32 of the FA Vase. I hope the players can produce a game worthy of the competition.”
And what a game it was. The visitors were certainly fastest out of the blocks. Barely two minutes in Scott Jones was upended on the edge of the penalty area after a super touch from Hutchings sent him on his way. Josh Clack's free-kick was, sadly for the contingent of Chi fans in a crowd of 350 or so at the New Defence ground, high and wide.
Clack's next effort made Horley keeper George Hyde work before Chi took the lead when Williams ghosted into tuck away a nicely delivered set-piece from Ellis Martin at the far post. The shell-shocked hosts slowly started to get into the match and build some pressure of their own. Long throws from Jack Poplett also tested the City defence. Then another free-kick from Martin just eluded Hutchings on the quarter hour mark.
Alex Barbary had the home side's first effort 20 minutes in but it didn't trouble Ant Ender in the Chi goal. Clack had a go at the other end after good work from Hutchings and Dan Hegarty before floating another free-kick in, too close to Hyde this time. A pinpoint cross from Hutchings two minutes later was headed on to the bar and over by a Horley defender as home fans held their breath. Jones got something on the resultant corner but there wasn't enough power in his header.
Jones was then involved in a glorious chance that would have seen City two up. The No9 jinked past a couple of players and pulled the ball back for Clack, who should have really put his foot through it. Ender, who to be fair, had been quiet up until this moment pulled off an outstanding reflex save tipping a shot over somehow when players in front of him failed to clear their lines.
Town might equalised on the half-hour but Barbary got things horribly wrong and skewed his attempt, although he could have then redeemed himself with one that fizzed inches past Ender's right hand post. Barbary was involved in the goal that leveled the match four minutes before the interval. A smart pass found top-scorer Kerran Boylan, who buried the ball in the bottom corner. Boylan had another chance a minute later before both Hyde and Ender had to rush out to deal with danger.
Horley started the second half on fire and Leyton Regan was instrumental down the right wing. Jones had a half-chance but it was all Horley for 15 minutes or so in a spell where Chi had to defend resolutely. The home side also had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Gerry Heron.
Hutchings' goal on 61 minutes came very much against the run of play. Jones did well to win a corner that didn't get beyond the first man but when the follow up cross was whipped in Hutchings found the back of the net after a superb piece of control.
The visitors then forged four opportunities in as many minutes. Clack was involved in two, a Lorenzo Dolcetti pass nearly set up Jones and the striker was a whisker away from getting on the end of another cross from Hutchings. Play was halted for a lengthy treatment to Scott Robson, who was eventually replaced by Zac Powell. Chances came and went for Adam Grant for Horley and only a firm glove from Hyde denied Dolcetti for Chi.
It could have been 3-1 in the 83rd minute but Hutchings, who posed a threat all game, headed Jones' cross on to the bar. Both sides made changes and Horley went for broke in the last five minutes. The City back four dug in though and Ender did well to take a high cross and then gather a lower one that looked destined for Boylan lurking in the box. In time added on Hutchings might have snatched another but Hyde made a great save with his feet.
The draw for the last 16 takes place on Monday afternoon - we'll have news of it on this website.
Chichester – Ender, Hartley, Williams, French, Martin, Clack, Hegarty, Dolcetti, Killner, S. Hutchings, Jones. Subs. (Kanjanda, R. Hutchings, Haitham, Turnbull (GK), Ndlovu)