The Magpies travelled to SCFL Premier table toppers Shoreham in the Sussex Senior Cup on Tuesday and after defeats in the last two games without registering a goal and facing a side who had only dropped 3 points in 42 so far this season, it was fair to say they were the under-dogs. However, the big-spending hosts did not have as comfortable a night as they may have expected. Three changes were made to the starting line-up with Charlie Pitcher (cup-tied following his move from Shoreham), Matt Daniel and Joel Colbran making way for Jon Dollery, Harvey Enticknap and Eddie French in a change of shape designed to repel the Musselmen's direct attacking threat but still provide a threat in the right area for the visitors.
As early as the second minute it appeared to a vindicated decision when Toby House did well down the right before delivering a deep cross to the far post but Lewis Scally (above) couldn't quite rise high enough. A misjudgement at the other end in the 11th minute did enable Richard Greenfield to get in behind for the hosts but Harrison Hilfiker in the Magpies goal stood up well to block the effort. The visitors went straight down the other end and forced a corner from which Cave unleashed a fierce shot that Joshua Heyburn in the Musselmen's goal could only parry but House couldn't react quick enough to steer his header on target. Despite the initial encounters the game settled down into an evenly contested midfield battle with neither side on top until an element of fortune arrived in the 32nd minute.
Scott Packer cut back inside off the right flank for the hosts and swung in a hopeful low ball with his left foot, which somehow went through a number of legs and past Hilfiker to nestle in the far corner, much to the midfielder's surprise. The Magpies weren't to be disheartened though and were soon on terms as two minutes later House once again did well down the right beating Mark Zydonik before delivery another excellent cross, which this time bore fruit as this time Byron Napper timed his run to power home a header from close-range to tie up the game. The hosts could have regained the lead just as quickly though as Niall O'Hagan hooked the ball into the 6 yard box after a corner and found Joe Keehan unmarked centre of the goal but he could only head straight at Hilfiker when it appeared easier to score. Nevertheless the two sides went into the break all square.
Moments after the restart House seized on a mistake to get in behind the hosts' backline, but his first touch kept him wide and Heyburn was able to block his shot comfortably at the expense of a corner. The visitors kept their strong start to the half going a few minutes later when following another corner Jay Lovett was able to bring the ball down at the far post but he was crowded out before being able to get a shot away. Set pieces were bringing both sides the most joy and just after the hour Shoreham nearly took the lead from a corner of their own but Keehan couldn't keep his unchallenged header beneath the crossbar. He would have more joy in the 63rd minute though when a soft free kick was given away on the left and after Packer's dangerous delivery wasn't cleared the Shoreham number 8 forced home the loose ball to make it 2-1.
The resilience of the visitors was to be tested again and they duly rose to the challenge once more just three minutes after going behind. Cave's low corner was helped on by French and House reacted he quickest to swivel on the ball and calmly prod the ball home to restore parity. He nearly created a chance to take the lead when he tricked his way into the box but his driven cross was well cleared just before Scally was poised to slot the ball home. Napper almost forced some good fortune for the Magpies with 13 minutes left as he charged down a clearance forcing the ball to loop up and over the stranded Heyburn, who was relieved to see it drop just past the far post. He had more say on the next piece of action though as House, again in the thick of the action, unleashed an unexpected left footed drive from 20 yards and the Shoreham stopper had to be alert to push it behind.
With just 5 minutes of normal time to go it appeared that he hosts were going to nick it when substitute Jack Rowe-Hurst foiund some space in the area and poked the ball past Hilfiker but somehow Cave got back to cover and in a bemusing moment cleared the ball by firing it against the post and away and so we went into extra time.
It didn't take long in the extra period for the high-flying hosts to seize the advantage again though, albeit in controversial circumstances. After watchfully letting the ball go behind to safety Lovett was adjudged to have conceded a corner, much to the confusion of everyone on both sides. Although the initial ball was cleared the ball was redelivered into the box where Rowe-Hurst did well to head the ball back across goal and this time Keehan made no mistake with the header giving Hilfiker no chance. Rowe-Hurst was presented with an opportunity to get himself on the scoresheet on the stroke of halftime when Clyde Jacques was rightly adjudged to have brought down Mark Goldson for a penalty but the spot kick was blasted very hard and very high so much so that it threatened the nearby warehouse more than the net.
Still very much in the game, but starting to tire following their efforts, the Magpies gallantly tried to force an equaliser in the second period and came closest 10 minutes left when Scally slipped House in from a Jacques cross but the ever tightening angle was against him and he could only shot wide of the near post. That would prove to be their last clear opportunity and despite a brave offering their County Cup campaign was ended at the second stage for the second season running. Team: Cave, Dollery (Ramsey 57), Enticknap (Daniel 80), French, Hilfiker, House, Jacques, Lovett, Napper, Scally & Wood (Colbran 106) Subs not used: M Beard & Camp