Hassocks were the visitors to Plaistow Road on Saturday with all the midweek talk within the SCFL being about the visitors' very impressive victory over champions-elect Shoreham on the Tuesday night, not that the Magpies were taking their opponents lightly beforehand anyway. After a somewhat dire match at Horsham YMCA seven days earlier, all in attendance were hopeful of a more engaging spectacle on home turf and saw the home side make just the one enforced change with Charlie Pitcher coming in for the unwell Max Bickell.
In fact the deadlock should have been broken as early as the first minute when Matt Daniel was brought down in the box and referee Robert King duly pointed to the spot. Ollie Gill stepped up and directed the kick well, but James Broadbent in the visitor's goal did exceptionally to keep the ball out. And the stopper had to be alert again moments later when he was called upon to tip Pitcher's header over. Hassocks managed to weather the early storm and after 10 minutes fashioned their first meaningful moment when James Westlake let fly but his fiercely struck shot only rattled the crossbar with Dave Carruthers beaten in the home goal.
The game then settled into a battle of the centre ground, almost in tribute to events in Copeland this week, which resulted in little goalmouth action as both defences held firm only offering scraps of hope that were either quickly snuffed out by opponents or were nothing more than wishful calls for penalties that were rightly waved away by the referee. With the eventual arrival of the half time whistle, both teams knew that they would have to step up their levels if either of them were going to grasp the game.
5 minutes into the second half it should have been the Robins who took the lead when Jack Rowe-Hurst rounded Carruthers after being put through, but somehow contrived to put the ball just wide of the post with the goal at his mercy. 10 minutes later Westlake took aim again after finding space but his effort was again just off target. This sparked the Magpies into gear and after an infringement on the edge of the area by Harry Mills, Gill stepped up and clattered the bar and although the ball rebounded into the danger area it couldn't be forced home.
Manager Mark Beard looked to freshen things up on 64 minutes by introducing Tom Frankland and Ed Davies to the action and it was only 6 minutes later that it paid dividends. Davis running at the tiring Hassocks defence was causing all sorts of problems and after another bout of induced chaos in the area it was Frankland that seized the opportunity and guided the ball home to spark scenes of both jubilation and relief amongst the Magpies faithful. The advantage probably should have been doubled just three minutes later but Gill was just off target with his effort and as Hassocks pushed for an equaliser space was beginning to open up for the hosts to exploit on the counter-attack,
With 10 minutes to go it was just that scenario that effectively made the game safe. Davis was at the heart of the action again, weaving his way into the area where he was somewhat inevitably impeded, which referee King did well to spot and upon doing so was left with little option but to once again point to the spot. It was Matt Daniel who stepped up on this occasion and he calmly slotted low to the Broadbent's left, who could do nothing to prevent it this time around.
With the visitors now deflated the Magpies went searching for more goals and really should have added to their tally. With 3 minutes left Davies laid the ball off to Gill but he was once again thwarted by Broadbent who parried the effort over and in the final minute the same protagonists were at it again, with the 'keeper claiming another small victory by this time tipping the ball around the post. It's fair to say that this wasn't to be Gill's day, but that wasn't to take the shine off what proved to be an all-round solid and patient display that secured three points and with it a rise up the table to 8th and leaving the hosts very much looking at how high they can finish with ten games to go.