After the postponement of the home match against Wick the week before, The Magpies had to wait a fortnight to build on their impressive performance against Crawley Down. The travelling party to bottom-of-the-pack Hailsham Town welcomed into the squad new signings Max Bickell and Ross Swaine whilst also seeing Ed Davies return from injury, however Tom Frankland would commence his suspension period following his dismissal at Peacehaven. The home fixture against the boys from the Beaconsfield was far from straight forward and with a bobbly pitch thrown into the equation, the afternoon wasn't expected to be an easy ride, although perhaps nobody was prepared for the rollercoaster that lay ahead.
It all appeared to be quite comfortable for the visitors to begin with. After just 6 minutes they had the lead when skipper Eddie French held off the attentions of his marker at a Byron Napper corner to stoop low and guide a header low into the far corner for his second goal in three games. However, the hosts showed their spirit with a swift reaction that saw Thomas Johnston bend an effort across goal towards the top corner but Dave Carruthers sprang to his left to keep the effort, although this would not be the last dual the two would have that afternoon. Carruthers had to be alert just three minutes later when Ross Markham cut in off the right flank before driving at goal but it was straight at the young 'keeper.
In the 15th minute though, referee Jack Hobbs showed some generosity to the Magpies when Davies went down in the penalty area under what at best could be described as minimal contact and although there were no appeals, the official pointed to the spot and Toby House duly stepped up and buried the penalty to double the lead and secure his 17th strike of the season. Again, Hailsham reacted well to the setback, pushing forward, particularly down the right-hand flank and they got their just rewards in the 23rd minute. Markham was at the forefront of the move again, beating Lewis Scally at the second attempt before driving into the box and squaring the ball to Sam Conolly who clinically tucked the ball away to deservedly half the deficit.
The visitors could have restored the two-goal lead straight from the kick off when they switched the ball out to Reece Batchelor who delivered a pin-point cross to Matt Daniel, but he could only head wide from 10 yards out. The Magpies striker would have another sight of goal four minutes later after good link up play between House and Davies, but he could only shoot straight at Tom Bradford in the home goal.
After a somewhat frenetic opening quarter to the match, both teams then struggled to string any meaningful phases of play together with neither 'keeper troubled by somewhat speculative efforts from distance, but the visitors eventually stepped it up for the final 5 minutes of the half and really should have had an extended lead at the break. First Bradford came swiftly off his line to smother a Daniel effort from a narrow angle and he had to be alert three minutes later to deny House his second of the match. Finally, Harry Bachelor (above) was first to react to a half-cleared corner but his ferocious drive from 20 yards was bravely blocked by a flying defender. The flow of the action that immediately preceded half time gave no indication of what was to come straight after it...
Ed Davies cheaply lost possession to Johnston on the right flank within seconds of the kick off but nobody expected what the Hailsham player did next. Without hesitation from at least 40 yards out on the touchline he went for goal after spotting Carruthers off his line and he was rewarded for his ingenuity as the ball sailed over the 'keeper's head to level the game. And it got even better for the hosts just three minutes later when Markham again he got away down the right flank and duly found Conolly who did well to evade the attentions of French before shooting across goal into the far corner to give Hailsham the lead and send the Beaconsfield faithful into rapture. They could have had a 4th in the 51st minute, but Martin Mutungi could only drive over the bar after receiving the ball in space on the edge of the area.
The visitors eventually rallied from the set back and after Davies slipped Daniel through on goal they should have been level but the striker was once again thwarted by Bradford although the effort was at a comfortable height for him. In the 59th minute they thought they did have an equaliser as House prodded the ball past Bradford but somehow the ball was cleared off the line at the last for a corner, which presented French with a free header but he could only glance it wide.
The Magpies were really ramping up the pressure now, desperately trying to make amends for their lacklustre start to the half. House let fly from 20 yards on the hour, which Bradford did well to beat away and a minute later his pressure on the home 'keeper forced a Bachelor cross to be spilled but Colbran's follow-up was well blocked by the recovering stopper. Bachelor had a n effort himself moments later after being fed by Napper but again Bradford stood firm and pushed the effort away. The visiting cause was given a numerical advantage in the 71st minute when Markham ruined his personally impressive afternoon when he went in dangerously on Scally and was subsequently shown a straight red for a challenge that cut short the defender's afternoon and probably ensured a rather 'uncomfortable' next few days!
The extra man paid dividends just 2 minutes later as House got in down the left and he squared the ball to Daniel who made no mistake from close range and fired in the equaliser. However, within five minutes of restoring parity on the scoreboard, House took it upon himself to level things in the line-up department too. After Daniel went down in the area the young striker remonstrated too vociferously with the assistant and after consultation with the referee was correctly dismissed for his actions. This stunted the momentum that the visitors had built upon and severely threatened the pursuit of all three points, however the side's character had come to the fore in recent weeks and today was to be no different.
With three minutes to go Napper and Bachelor linked up well again and the latter's cut back found the marauding Colbran but the Hailsham defence bravely blocked yet another fierce drive. Undeterred the Magpies continued to push forward and in the 90th minute their endeavour would reap its rewards. Swaine capped an impressive return to the Club from the bench with a delightful flick to put Daniel in down the right channel and after driving into the area he squared the ball for Bachelor who kept his composure to swivel and guide the ball into the corner to steal the win that sees them climb one place to 9th in the SCFL Premier Division.
Whilst this was by no means a fluent showing from the Magpies on a surface that didn't suit them, this should by no means detract from a showing by the hosts that belayed their lowly position in the table along with their meagre points haul. Credit goes to them but at the same time the visitors will know that they got out of jail here and they will need to improve when they host Lancing next Saturday in what is an earlier 1pm kick off.