MIGHTY CHAPEL TOPPLED
2nd placed Chapel faced 2nd from bottom Fernhurst Reserves yesterday, and against the odds, with a small but tightly bonded squad, the Green Army defended like Lions and attacked like Vipers to achieve the victory that will hopefully see them keep their Division 4 South status.
In a punishingly intense first half Fernhurst dug in against an athletic Chapel attack, containing the two top scorers in the league, and had to deal with the wind in their faces, carrying the high bouncing bombs from the back deep into their half and into the path of Chapel's relentless front runners.
But despite being on the back foot often in the first half, Fernhurst created chances of their own, and the first good chance of the game came their way.
A long throw from Player/Coach Charlie Carver was flicked on by Unbeatable Center Back Ali Irving for Rapid Debutant Jake Wright to force a remarkable sprawling double save from the Away Keeper.
Chapel got in down their right but Brave Keeper Dan Woods sprinted out to block the square ball for a certain goal.
Intense Playmaker Jack Tutton drilled in one of many quality corners and Inspirational Center Back Craig Feargrieve just glanced wide with his well timed header.
An Away Side Center Mid was then allowed to step inside and hit a dipping, swirling shot that Woods tracked and leapt up to push onto the bar at full stretch.
Dominant Midfielder Scott Phillips replied with a vicious dipping volley from 30 yards that just missed the bar.
The Greens then nearly conceded when an unchallenged header from a corner just went over.
Neat play down the left saw Unstoppable Forward Joseph Stafrace feed Tutton who nimbly beat his man on the bye line and pull back for the arriving Phillips to fire just wide from the edge of the box through bodies.
Chapel had two free kicks to end a breathtaking first half with both beating the wall.
The first couldn't beat the big dive and strong hands of Woods, and the second took the slightest of deflections off Carver's shin that rattled the side netting and sent the Home Side's pulses racing.
Pleased to be level at half time but confident in their abilities going forward, the Greens were complimentary and constructive with each other at half time.
Having the wind behind them now was a game changer for Fernhurst, no longer were the long balls of Chapel carrying over their back line, and every one was met with a big call and solid header.
And thanks to Woods' monstrous kicks forcing the Away Side back, the Greens were able to play more football out from their end, recycling possession and hitting back at Chapel with quick forward passing to feet.
It was one of these moves that lead to the first clear chance of the half, when Influential Right Back Chris Allcock played inside to Phillips, who marauded through the center and slid in Wright, who just missed the top corner first time from 15 yards.
Another similar move saw Carver drive down the line to Player/Manager Gareth Sandham, who controlled, turned and played in Stafrace in one motion, but was unfortunate to see his effort saved cutting in from the left.
Fernhurst still had a lot to deal with but Feargrieve's and Irving's awesome ability to assess and repel attacks dumbfounded Chapel, with Phillips and Comitted Midfielder Kai Hampton reacting sharply to the second balls.
Phillips flighted in a trademark set piece from deep that just evaded Irving to agonisingly deny the Home Side the lead.
Woods was still in fine form, getting his angles spot on again to save one on one at the near post, and later put his head in where it hurts to take one for the team.
Entering the last ten minutes, with all legs tiring, Chapel got in down their right. Looking on in desperation the Greens were awe struck to see Feargrieve make an impossible recovery challenge out of nowhere.
This moment of inspiration gave Fernhurst the belief that they could not only hold on for a great draw, but go for a previously unimaginable win.
With seven minutes to go Stafrace went on one of his countless multiple opponent beating runs and clipped an inswinging ball from the left side of the penalty area. Arriving at the far post was Resilient Winger Stephen Harrod to finish with an impudent flick off the outside of his boot over the sliding Keeper to send the Green Army wild.
Fernhurst feared a backlash, but were taken to ecstasy when Stafrace got his thoroughly deserved goal for 90 minutes of relentless effort and dazzling quality when he beat two men and lashed his finish past the helpless Keeper from 15 yards to seal a magnificent victory for The Green Army and justify Sandham's bold team selection of deserving players.
Line Up: 4231
GK Dan Woods
LB Charlie Carver
CB Ali Irving
CB Craig Feargrieve
RB Chris Allcock
DM Scott Phillips
DM/AM Kai Hampton
LW Gareth Sandham (Off 60)
AM/DM Jack Tutton
RW/LW Jake Wright
CF Joseph Stafrace (c)
RW Stephen Harrod (On 60)
Fernhurst Reserves lie 8th out of 9 in West Sussex Division 4 South, having played all 16 games.
If 9th placed Petworth Reserves fail to get 4 points from their last two games (against 7th placed Ambassadors and 3rd placed Watersfield) Fernhurst Reserves will remain in the division.
Fernhurst's First Team lie 8th in Division 1 South and their final game of the season is away to 6th placed Harting on April 1st.