After a week dominated by incessant rainfall Saturday's match was very much in danger of following in the footsteps of many other fixtures in the area, but credit to both our ground staff and our continual investment in our facilities for ensuring that we could welcome Lancing as scheduled. The Magpies were missing Lewis Scally from the squad that escaped with three points at Hailsham the previous week, but this saw Ross Swaine come into the line-up for his first start since re-joining the Club.
The hosts couldn't have hoped for a more productive start as Ed Davies weaved his way through the Lancing defence in the 4th minute before being upended on the edge of the area. The young midfielder duly picked himself up and curled the ball delightfully past Tyler D'Cruz in the Lancer's goal. A minute later they were close to doubling the lead but Matt Daniel was flagged offside after being found cutely by Harry Bachelor. The visitors were not disheartened by this early setback though and could have been level in just the 7th minute when George Fenton found himself clear in the left-hand channel but his cross-shot was very well blocked by a recovering Eddie French. Just two minutes later Will Berry found space to take aim from 25 yards out but his effort was partially blocked and as such made it simple for Dave Carruthers to field the ball.
They weren't to be denied in the 13th minute though as a loose flick on from a throw-in was seized upon by Jake Chadwick and after driving forward he scuffed his left-footed shot but the effort had enough accuracy to creep inside the far post and thereby level the match.
With that goal the two sides reached an impasse and aside from Daniel and French failing to find a telling touch from a Davies corner that was dangerously whipped into the near post, there was little danger posed at either end until just after the half hour mark when Alex Bygraves rose well to meet a Tom Caplin corner for the visitors but he couldn't direct his header on target. With ten minutes of the half to go the Magpies should have retaken the lead when Bachelor neatly put Davies through but his shot, although at a comfortable height, was well saved by D'Cruz. The Lancers had more joy at the other end 5 minutes later though when Swaine was adjudged to have handled the ball from an out-swinging corner, despite there being no obvious appeals for an infringement and referee Dave Philp pointed to the spot. Lewis Finney stepped up and calmly slotted the ball straight down the middle to complete the first half turnaround.
Max Bickell replaced the injured Davies at half time for his first appearance since re-joining the Club last month but he nearly saw the visitors go further ahead in the 50th minute when Finney did well to volley a corner at the far post but Carruthers did very well to block the effort with an outstretched leg. Bickell did have chance a minute later though as he seized on a loose ball once Daniel muscled Dave Sherman off the ball, but he couldn't keep his effort under the crossbar.
The Magpies should have been level just after the hour mark when a recycled corner saw Byron Napper deliver a well-directed cross towards French at the back post. D'Cruz did well to rise and claim the ball but he collided with his own defender and dropped the ball at the Loxwood skipper's feet and he duly tapped home, however his celebrations were cut short as the referee believed the 'keeper relinquished possession of the ball because of a foul. Two minutes later Carruthers quickly put Bickell through on goal but he was up-ended on the edge of the area and although the free kick was given there was no retribution for the culprit who denied an apparent goal-scoring opportunity. Daniel's resulting effort from the free kick was easily held by D'Cruz.
Goal scorer Chadwick had to be stretchered off with 7 minutes to go after he sustained what appeared to be a deep gash to the leg following a strong, but fair challenge with Joel Colbran, and the treatment he justifiably undertook ensured that there was plenty of added on time for the Magpies to find an equaliser. It looked for all the world that an equaliser was found in the third of those minutes; D'Cruz dramatically pushed the ball out from a cross but only as far as Adam Williams who lofted the ball goalward with the 'keeper on the ground, however, the characterful stopper somehow managed to extend an arm from nowhere to bat the ball out. The adrenalin from this incident got the better of him a minute later though as he recklessly advanced from his area to cut out a through-ball and duly took Daniel out with a dangerously raised foot that resulted in his dismissal.
Berry took over the gloves and comfortably tipped over the resulting free kick by Napper and after he also did well to hold Bickell's stinging drive from a tight angle at the second attempt he had ensured that the visitors had secured all three points.
This was a disappointing result and performance from the Magpies after something of a renaissance in recent weeks along with their excellent start to this match. There was a degree of not taking due care of the ball for the remainder of the first half and with that it saw them try to go too direct at times, which was comfortable managed by the visitors and enabled them to get their way back into the game and then take a hold of it. The second half was much improved, but credit to Lancing who repelled all that was thrown at them and all at Loxwood hope that Jake Chadwick's injury is not too serious.