The Magpies completed their run of facing the SCFL's top three sides in succession with a trip to Pagham on Tuesday night, albeit on this occasion with a place in the Susses FA RUR Cup semi-finals at place as opposed to league points. The visitors welcomed back into the squad Joel Colbran, Jay Lovett and Cecil Jee but were missing Ed Davies and Rhyan Ramsey, who impressed after coming off the bench at half time at Shoreham on Saturday. They were, however, also strengthened by the inclusion of Ollie Gill who was making his first appearance since late August having dual signed with Ryman League Horsham.
Pagham possess the second most potent attack in the SCFL and as such the visiting defence were going to have to be at their best in this match and they were served due warning of this as early as the 4th minute when an error from Lewis Scally was seized upon and Ryan Morey was slipped in, but fortunately for the Magpies the offside flag made his neat finish redundant.
They wouldn't be so fortunate three minutes later, however, as when a corner was only half cleared a volley that was going wide was expertly diverted into the net by Scott Murfin for the opening goal. Keen to ensure they stayed true to their footballing principles, the visitors soon showed their own threat with a lovely flowing move through the phases that ended with Michael Wood having sight of goal but his shot was comfortably gathered by James Binfield in the Lions' goal.
Unfortunately an error would see the hosts double their lead as Harrison Hilfiker misjudged a deep cross from the left hand side and the waiting Liam Humphries was on hand to tap into the unguarded net at the second attempt and ensure that it would take some effort for the Magpies to get through to the next round. They weren't to be disheartened by this though and they began to battle their way back into the game and could have been on level terms had Mark Cave's delivery across goal not been missed by all and Ollie Gill's cross that was fumbled by Binfield been turned in rather than hacked clear at the last.
The half hour mark saw the first of two good opportunities for Toby House; firstly, he latched on to an in-swinging delivery from Gill's short corner but his swivel and shot went just wide; then moments later he won a foot race with Binfield to reach the ball first but his effort from an ever-tightening angle went narrowly the wrong side of the near post. The Magpies were duly punished for their wastefulness in front of goal and were complicit in their downfall as an under-hit pass across the backline to Colbran was intercepted and Kieron Pamment quickly released Morey who didn't miss out on the opportunity and tucked the ball away for the third.
In the 40th minute Colbran was able to prevent it getting even worse as he cleared the ball impressively for a corner following Lloyd Rowlett's angled drive and from the resulting corner the ball was recycled to Pamment at the back post who curled an effort just over the bar. The hosts would get a fourth just before the break though as the Magpies lost the ball cheaply in their defensive third again and Pamment drove towards the box before laying the ball off to Morey who seized his second of the night.
Keen to at least salvage some pride in the second half, the Magpies started brightly with Colbran stinging the fingers of Binfield from fully 25 yards in the 47th minute and from the rebound substitute Jee also got a shot away, but again the Lions' 'keeper was equal to the task. He was more comfortable 4 minutes later when saving Cave's tame shot after Gill had shown strength and skill to hold off a stern challenge to set up the opportunity.
In what was easily the best prolonged passage of play for the Magpies, House and Scally linked up well on the right for the latter to deliver an excellent cross to find Cave at the back post, but his header was thwarted by the impressive Binfield. The Pagham number 1 didn't need to exert himself in the 65th minute though when another excellent ball in from a similar position, this time from Byron Napper, found Lovett at the far post, but he couldn't keep his volley down and yet another opportunity went begging.
Sure enough, the wastefulness was punished as it was in the first half as from the resulting goal kick the hosts attacked down the left and Joe Shelley's cross was met with aplomb by Pamment who guided his header inside the near post to register the fifth goal. Indeed, Pamment could have grabbed another two minutes later but for (seemingly) once a Pagham player couldn't hit the target. The half dozen was reached with 14 minutes to go through when yet another break was clinically dispatched, this time with Humphries tapping home.
The chances kept coming in the closing stages for the visitors though as Colbran tried again from distance in the 82nd minute, but this time it flew just over and a minute later Scally met a deep Cave corner, but his header didn't have enough power behind it and was easily blocked to safety. Even in injury time a consolation strike was up for grabs with Matt Daniel having two opportunities, once after being slipped in by Napper but he shot straight at Binfield; and second after being found by Clyde Jacques fantastic ball in, but he could only drive over from close range.
Shelley was denied one on one by Hilfiker at the very last, but overall this was a harsh lesson in the importance of clinical finishing by Pagham. In all the number of clear chances was probably fairly even over the course of the match, but there was only one team in it when it came to taking their chances and the Magpies know they must do better in the coming weeks as they take on teams that are closer to them in the league table.