The Magpies were in RUR Charity Cup action again on Saturday and after needing extra time to overcome Steyning Town in the previous round, even though Saltdean United were also from the division below, the visitors were not to be taken lightly given their position at the summit, and rightly so as it proved. With Jay Lovett unavailable, Charlie Pitcher cup tied and Joel Colbran having played U18 football in the week, Manager Mark Beard brought Eddie French and Clyde Jacques back into the starting line-up and new signing Matt Daniel, who joined in the week from Three Bridges, was on the bench.
All appeared to be very comfortable for the hosts in the early stages of the match as they attacked with pace from all angles and the visitors were struggling to deal with it. As early as the 3rd minute, Michael Wood received the ball in the area and drew a rash challenge, which gave the referee little option but to award a penalty and Mark Cave duly stepped up to dispatch it. The home faithful only had to wait 6 minutes longer for the lead to be doubled when a probing run by Tom Summerfield down the right presented him with an opportunity to shoot and whilst his effort was saved Toby House (above) was on hand to slot home the rebound. And it was soon three and easy when in the 15th minute Summerfield and House combined again at pace for the latter to notch his 7th cup goal of the season so far and 12th over all.
You'd have been forgiven for thinking the afternoon was going to be a cakewalk for The Magpies after that start but the visitors had other ideas and were afforded a simple opportunity to get themselves going when Liam O'Brien was left unmarked to head home a corner in the 29th minute. With this spark, the visitors ensured a far more evenly contested last 15 minutes of the half and could have reduced the lead further still had Harrison Hilfiker not been on hand to make a superb stop just before the half time whistle was blown.
The break didn't stifle the visitors' momentum though as after just 2 minutes it appeared to be Groundhog Day when they utilised another set piece to punish the hosts with Andy McDowell being the beneficiary. Nobody noticed whether it was raining at the time (sorry, couldn't resist!).
Daniel was duly introduced for his debut when he replaced Cave, but it didn't disperse the pressure that was being applied by Saltdean and the equaliser appeared to be somewhat inevitable, and so it was on the hour when Rickie Mitchell got to a well-delivered cross before anyone else and managed to bundle the ball over the line and ensure that the game was very much now on.
What followed was a final half hour that brought errors and chances a plenty from all parties involved, including the officials who gave a number of somewhat bizarre decisions in both directions. Both teams had opportunities to win it in normal time though, House had an effort following an erroneous handball decision go just wide, whilst Scott Marshall blazed over for United after a neat lay-off. O'Brien escaped a second yellow after scything down Wood. Hilfiker denied a complete turnaround late on with two big clearing punches from successive corners and amongst all this chaos, Saltdean were denied one final corner when a goal kick was inexplicably given instead, and so the match went to extra time.
The additional 30 minutes didn't live up to 90 that preceded it as it appeared that the break in-between brought both teams' intensity levels down a fair few notches and as such the match was played with a somewhat unconscious acceptance that the day would end in a penalty shoot-out. House nearly scuppered that with moments to go though when the hat-trick opportunity presented itself, but the young striker shot wide of the left hand post and the inevitable was finally reached.
As it was in open play, Loxwood took the early advantage in the shoot-out. After Sam Beard stepped up to net the first, Hilfiker continued his heroics when he saved Nick Fogden's effort, then Colbran secured the advantage by making no mistake with his strike. McDowell thumped his effort against the post for the visitors and Daniel compounded his miss when he netted to make it 3-0. Ollie Rowlands finally got the visitors off the mark and when Byron Napper blazed his penalty comfortably over the bar and George Walls converted, all of a sudden it was 3-2 and there were fears of another improbable comeback. However, House strode forward determined to finally put the tie to bed and calmly did so to see the Magpies through to the quarter finals where they will travel to high-flying Pagham, which is currently pencilled in for Tuesday 29 November. Team: Bachelor (Enticknap 69), S Beard, Cave (Daniel 63), French (Colbran 75), Hilfiker, House, Jacques, Napper, Scally, Summerfield & Wood Subs unused: Atkinson & Smith