After five wins a row The Magpies were looking to finish October with a 100% record at Eastbourne Town on Saturday, which would also take their current unbeaten run into double figures. There were a number of changes with Yassin Raman & Jay Lovett coming into the starting line-up along with Charlie Pitcher (above) for his first start since his return to the Club as well as recent signing Jon Dollery for his debut.
The hosts had the better of the early exchanges but couldn't capitalise as Ethan Strevett saw his drive fly over whilst Aaron Capon latched onto a through-ball and whilst he evaded the onrushing Harrison Hilfiker in the Magpies' goal he was forced too far wide and his resulting shot went harmlessly into the side netting.
It wasn't until the 13th minute that the visitors finally threatened when Pitcher turned and put Dollery through on goal, but his effort on the stretch to deflect the ball past Greg Nessling in the Town goal was comfortably gathered. They didn't have to wait much longer for another sight of goal through when Lovett picked out the run in behind of Pitcher and the striker showed great composure to volley over Nessling into the far corner and open the scoring. Hilfiker had to be alert to snuff out an opportunity for the hosts to get back on terms inside 2 minutes when he was quickly off his line to thwart Capon with a strong challenge.
The continually dangerous Capon has another chance in the 20th minute when he was found by Strevett but his shot from an ever-tightening angle was easily gathered by Hilfiker. Strevett had another key part to play a minute later, but this time at the other end when he was dispossessed by Michael Wood, who then drove inside before unleashing a shot, but the ball flew the wrong side of the near post.
The game was somewhat end-to-end at this stage and it was soon the Magpies turn to have another crack at goal when in the 25th minute, after positive work by Raman down the right fed Pitcher, he linked well with Toby House to square the ball for the onrushing Byron Napper, but his well-struck shot was well blocked by Sam Willett. Pitcher would soon turn provider again, this time neatly laying the ball off for House, but the young forward sliced his effort and the ball flew high and wide. From the resulting goal kick Chris Cumming-Bart made good progress down the left for the hosts and set up Strevett, but not for the first time his effort was off target when well set.
Town were beginning to build some sustained pressure and when in the 36th minute Harry Ducatell delivered an excellent cross into the box that found Evan Archibald at the far post the teams should have been on level terms but his diving header went narrowly wide. Just a minute later Strevett slipped the ball left to Tyler Capon who cut inside before unleashing a fierce strike that Hilfiker watched go narrowly over. Pitcher nearly caught the hosts with a sucker punch straight away when he seized upon the loose ball before driving into the penalty area and then side stepping to open up space for a shot but his goal-bound strike was blocked.
The final moments of the first half saw the Magpies have to repel the stiffest pressure of the afternoon so far. After Dan Rogers saw his header from a corner only just go over, Tyler Capon, again set up by Strevett, saw his strike beaten away by Hilfiker down low to his near post and when the ball was recycled and delivered to the far post, Archibald was unmarked, but his downward header was superbly pushed behind by Hilfiker's outstretched right hand.
The hosts came even closer to equalising in the early stages of the second half when Rogers rose again to meet a corner with his head, and although this time the ball was thumped home, the referee ruled it out for a push by the Town centre back, which was duly accepted without argument by the offender. This sparked the Magpies into action and some excellent interplay a minute later between Napper, House and Wood saw the latter put in the clear but he chose to cross rather than shoot and the opportunity went begging. On the hour mark Wood was deeply involved again when after linking well with Raman he rode a challenge in the area to pull the ball back for the waiting House. Whilst the number 9's effort was on target, it wasn't the cleanest of connections and Nessling was able to scramble across his line to push the ball wide.
Aaron Capon had been quiet for the initial stages of the second half but in the 64th minute he popped up running on to a through-ball, but Lewis Scally recovered extremely well with a last ditch challenge to snuff out the danger. The hosts appeared to be running out of ideas as time went on, but in the 83rd minute they were thrown an unexpected advantage when Raman had to come off after breaking his wrist in a challenge, and with the Magpies having already made all three of their permitted substitutions, they were now down to 10 men, and just two minutes later it got even worse for the visitors...
A long ball over the top fell perfectly in-between Hilfiker and the retreating Mark Cave to present Town substitute James Stone with a run in on goal. Hilfiker chose to try and take command of the situation but only succeeded in committing a foul on the edge of the box and referee Carl Smith viewed the challenge as denying a clear goal scoring opportunity and duly dismissed the young stopper. Cave took the gloves and watched the resulting free kick be driven low and wide, but that wasn't to spell the end of the pressure as the hosts bombarded the penalty area in pursuit of an equaliser.
Resolute defending from the likes of Lovett, Scally and Clyde Jacques appeared to have done enough to secure the three points for Loxwood, however, in the 5th minute of added on time Ductall delivered another excellent ball into the box towards Archibald and this time he made no mistake, heading back across Cave, who despite getting a hand to it, could not prevent a heart-breaking equaliser, which saw the Magpies suffer so very late in the game at The Saffrons for the second season running.
Nevertheless, the point does indeed stretch the unbeaten run to 10 games and concludes a month that has returned 5 victories and 1 draw, which is an achievement not to be underestimated. Team: Cave, Dollery (Enticknap 80), Hilfiker, House (Jee 80), Jacques, Lovett, Napper, Pitcher (Daniel 69), Raman, Scally & Wood Subs unused: French & Smith