After a highly promising performance the week before at home to Wick, the Magpies made the short trip to Horsham YMCA for a local derby on a sunny day where Spring was very much in the air and all in attendance were hopeful of an entertaining and well-contested match between two sides that have been in similar areas of the table all season...
...well, at least they got half of that!
The visitors made one enforced change to their line-up with Reece Batchelor coming in for the suspended Byron Napper and Tom Frankland took his place on the bench after completing his own suspension.
It wasn't until the 12th minute that the first meaningful incident occurred as both sides battled it out for control of the midfield area. The hosts worked the ball out to Dan Evans on the left flank who sliced his deep cross and Dave Carruthers in the Magpies' goal could do little but watch as the ball swerved over him and came back off the far post. Five minutes later Evans was causing problems again with another telling cross from the left but Ross Swaine did exceptionally well to block the ball from reaching the waiting David Brown and was then fouled as the YM forward attempted to capitalise on the loose ball.
The visitors had to wait until just after midway through the half for their first clear-cut opportunity as Olly Gill (above) wriggled his way through the defence but his shot didn't match the skill that got him there and his left footed shot went tamely wide. Four minutes later there appeared to be a justifiable shout for the Magpies when Mark Fox brought down Eddie French after fumbling a shot, but the referee seemed to miss the incident and play was waved on. The hosts nearly took the lead just after the half hour mark when Sam Schaaf turned inside French and had a clear sight of goal but Carruthers was swiftly off his line to smother the ball.
The start to the second half was as uneventful as the first, with 10 minutes passing until an effort of note and it fell to the hosts when Brown cut in from the right-hand by-line and cut the ball back to Schaaf but he shot straight at Carruthers, who gathered at the second attempt. The same two protagonists were involved again two minutes later when a loose ball from Joel Colbran was seized upon, but again the Magpies' stopper came out on top.
There again followed a period of little to get excited about and it wasn't until 11 minutes to go that either 'keeper was tested again, but this time it was Fox who comfortably fielded Charlie Pitcher's effort that, like so many on the day, lacked a quality connection. That wasn't the case for Adam Williams three minutes later when he latched on to a knock-down by Ross Swaine but this time the direction was lacking and Fox was able to block the effort. The hosts did manage to have the best of the last 5 minutes as a break to the deadlock was desperately sought. Philip Johnson set up Schaaf at the near post but his effort troubled the back garden of the nearby house more than it did the goal and moments later Ashley Dugdale headed towards goal from a corner but Alex Gathern appeared to clear his own teammate's effort at the far post as he attempted to nod home.
The last minute saw both sides have one last chance to take all three points, firstly Ed Davies drove forward for the visitors before shooting from the edge of the box; Fox spilled the effort but Pitcher was flagged offside as he seized on the rebound. Finally, Johnson got half clear and managed to get off a poked shot, but Carruthers did well to parry the effort away and ensure that neither goal would be breached on an afternoon where there was a distinct absence of quality where it really mattered at both ends. It could have been due to the bobbly nature of the pitch, or perhaps a case of relaxing too much in the unseasonal sunshine, regardless this wasn't either sides' finest hour of the season and both move on hoping to climb into the upper third of the table over the coming weeks. For the Magpies that starts with heading home next Saturday to welcome Hassocks.
Team: Bachelor, Batchelor (Frankland 67), Bickell (Pitcher 74), Carruthers, Colbran, Daniel (Davies 57), French, Gill, Scally, Swaine & Williams Subs not used: Camp & Jacques