Chichester City v Maidstone United

I didn’t plan on going to Chichester. They’re the furthest team away from Whitstable and you can only assume an outcast from the overstuffed Isthmian South Central division. But luck would have it that a trip north to see family meant I could “swing round” (as I described it to my wife back home), on the way back.

I arrived just in time to collide with the Glorious Goodwood traffic. Or I would have collided with it had most of it not been parked up on a layby overheating – a glamourous selection of Bentleys and Bugattis being flapped at by grey-haired men in immaculate 1930s clobber.

None of this mattered. Chichester is lovely place and the picturesque ground next to the park was bathed in sunshine, without a cloud in the sky to interrupt. Perfect conditions for an FA Cup qualifying tie against Step 2 opposition.

Arriving an hour early I made my way to the main stand. Someone spotted my notebook and pointed to the press section before I confessed.

Stunned that someone would travel this far to watch their beloved Chichester, I was warmly welcomed into a padded seat in the home directors’ section.

Right next to me were some busy Maidstone club officials, with laptops. In contrast to me they didn’t look like they’d been driving into the sun since 7 o’clock that morning.

Chichester would hold their own against Maidstone, reaching half time the better side. Then on about 47 minutes, they came apart and Maidstone got the better of them, running out 3-1 winners.

It was good to get a chance to watch Maidstone United. Their fitness levels were obviously greater and that translated into more options.

They pressed Chichester wide in build-up, then dropped back to allow them space in the centre. There they overloaded the midfield passing options, forcing Chichester to play long.

Maidstone pressed build up wide (left). Then dropped to block passing lanes centrally, forcing Chicester long (left)

They were also predictable but effective in transition. Winning the ball Maidstone would switch play as quickly as possible, exploiting gaps and slowly wearing down the Chichester backline. They lasted well for about 75 minutes before tiredness began to tell in their own third.

Maidstone in attacking transition: Switch the ball quickly

I knew the feeling.

My new friends advised against the quicker, direct route home and the inevitable carnage on the motorway. Instead, I headed in the wrong direction, as instructed, back towards Portsmouth, via the lovely town of Bosham, then back up towards London. It proved great advice.

But how would we get on against a side who’d caused Maidstone problems?

Chichester City v Maidstone United (FA Cup 2Q)
Saturday 18 September 2021
Score: 1-3