The Magpies took on a full strength Horsham side on Tuesday night at Lancing FC as part of their pre-season schedule.
This was always going to be a tough task against last season's SCFL Champions, particularly as the 'hosts' were missing several key players, but it would prove to be a valuable guide as to what stage had been reached in the preparations for the forthcoming season.
Horsham's credentials were evident from the start as they moved the ball quickly in central, threatening areas and pressed high up the pitch to regain possession at the earliest opportunity. Loxwood's makeshift back line struggled to deal with this incisive play in the first quarter of the match and as conceded on 12, 23 and 28 minutes in relatively similar circumstances as the Ryman League side developed and then exploited space in between centre backs and full backs alike.
Loxwood eventually began to get to grips with their opponents and started to use the ball in a more accustomed way and found some joy in and around Horsham's own full backs. This work saw Ross Swaine, Rhyan Ramsey, Michael Wood and Sam Beard all find themselves in threatening wide positions behind the defensive line but a combination of misplaced crosses and scuffed finishing meant that the scoreline at halftime remained 3-0.
The shape was changed for the second half in order to channel Horsham's threat into less risky areas but at the same time to enable The Magpies to be more potent going forward and the effect was immediate as a number of attacking corners were forced and The Hornets found themselves having to defend more resiliently in order to retain their clean sheet. In the 72nd minute, however, the pressure told and a delightfully, delicate, lofted through ball found Mark Cave (above) who calmly slotted past the onrushing 'keeper to get one back, which was no more than was deserved.
Regrettably only seven minutes later Matt Penfold made a very uncharacteristic mistake as he dwelt on the ball as the last man, was swiftly dispossessed and Horsham regained their three goal lead with a calm, slotted finish past Harrison Hilfiker in goal. It would have been interesting to see the outcome had this not occurred as the set-back didn't deter Loxwood and reapplied pressure eventually told again as good work from Wood on the right hand side of the box resulted in a cross-cum-shot that debutant Toby House tapped in at the far post to cap what was an impressive first performance by the 18 year old.
The match finished with that 4-2 score line and 60 minutes of the game showed that The Magpies look to be in good stead for the season ahead, which is now just 11 days away.
Squad: Beard, Cave, Enticknapp, French, Haulkham, Hilfiker, House, Jacques, Jee, Napper, Penfold, Ramsey, Smith, Swaine, Williams and Wood