The Magpies visited The Oaks on Saturday conscious of facing an AFC Uckfield Town side that were enjoying a positive start to the season but on the back of their own unbeaten run that was now 4 games long and had seen improving performances to go with the results. With that, Mark Beard named an unchanged starting line-up for the first time this season.
The hosts were clearly content to retreat and get numbers behind the ball as soon as they lost possession and the visitors lack of composure with the ball early on ensured that chances were few and far between in the first 20 minutes. Uckfield did have the ball in the net in the 7th minute but Phil Broom was flagged offside and Loxwood's best chance of that period was when Harry Bachelor nearly got on the end of a loose ball but 'keeper Matt Dann got there first.
The game was sparked in to life in the 22nd minute though when Michael Wood was needlessly fouled just inside the area when going nowhere and the referee duly pointed to the spot and Mark Cave stepped up to dispatch the kick low to the Dann's left and open the scoring. The Magpies hardly looked back from this point. Two minutes later Wood was fouled again, but this time just outside the area and the forward picked himself up to strike the free kick goalwards but the host 'keeper did well to get down and tip it around the post (see photos below). Wood's strike partner Toby House soon began to look more lively, firstly he set up Rhyan Ramsey for a shot but it was dragged wide; and in the 36th minute he did exceptionally well to meet Sam Beard's driven cross at the far post and turn the ball goalwards. The guided effort beat the 'keeper and appeared to be going in, but Ramsey made sure and with it ensured that the effort was thwarted by the offside flag (photos below).
3 minutes later though House took matters into his own hands. Bachelor showed great skill on the right before setting Joel Colbran away on the over-lap. The youngest member of the team put in an inviting, low, driven cross and House was on hand to tuck the ball away for his eighth goal of the season, fourth in the last three games and ensured the Magpies went into the break two goals to the good.
Knowing that the hosts had been encouraged to raise their own intensity, Loxwood were intent to ensure that no momentum was lost and in just the 47th minute Ramsey pulled down a lofted ball into the area by Beard, turned inside and struck for goal but Dann did well to push it away. Just 6 minutes later though, they did get a third when Ramsey again had a shot at goal that Dann saved, but this time Wood was on hand to fire home the rebound and it was to get worse for the hosts in the 58th minute. High pressing ensured that the ball wasn't cleared and after more good skill from Bachelor to feed Byron Napper, the Magpies' skipper unleashed a fearsome, left-footed drive that went in off the post leaving the 'keeper motionless.
The opportunity was duly taken to freshen things up and ensure that the side pressed for more goals. They did have to wait until the 75th minute though when Beard delivered another excellent ball into the box and although it was Napper that was picked out initially, Clyde Jacques was on hand to seize on the resulting loose ball and prod the ball home past the stranded Dann (photos below).
Bachelor looked to cap an impressive display in the 84th minute when he drove towards the box, but his effort was just wide of the post (see below) and Wood was slipped into the right hand channel after some patient team play, but his shot was straight at the 'keeper.
The only blot on the afternoon's work came in the 87th minute when the hosts broke down the right channel and although the resulting shot was extremely well saved by Harrison Hilfiker, the young 'keeper was denied a clean sheet as substitute Shaun Loft tucked away the rebound to reduce the deficit with a consolation goal. Two minutes later though the 5 goal lead was restored when Tom Summerfield took the opportunity to drive forward before slipping the ball to Wood who still had plenty to do, but neatly went past the the defender in front of him before tucking the ball past the 'keeper to complete the scoring for the day with his second of the game (photos above and below).
This was altogether a very pleasing performance by the Magpies against a side who will frustrate and overcome many an opponent this season, particularly at home. This result takes the run to five matches unbeaten and a full week's rest ahead before hosting Hailsham next Saturday. Team: Bachelor, S Beard, Cave (French 72), Colbran (Summerfield 60), Hilfiker, House (Haulkham 72), Jacques, Napper, Ramsey, Scally & Wood Subs unused: Raman & Smith