After a testing week for all involved with the Club, it was nice to come home and get onto the pitch with Eastbourne Town having made the long journey to Plaistow Road, and with the Magpies looking to make amends for the insipid performance at Pagham seven days earlier. Joe Holvey came in for his first start since returning to the Club and Eddie French was reinstalled to the starting 11 along with Dave Carruthers and Max Bickell who missed the last match.
On a sumptuous Spring afternoon, it was clear from the early exchanges that these were two evenly matched teams and the fact that they had set up in almost identical formations resulted in little goal mouth action, although it wasn't through a lack of pace to the match. Bickell did have a header go narrowly wide from a Tom Frankland first-time cross, but that aside it wasn't until after 15 minutes that chances began to materialise, and it was the visitors who created them. Firstly, a long throw-in caused a degree of panic in the area but a fierce strike was well blocked by Byron Napper with calls for handball being waved away by the referee. From that Ethan Strevett seized possession, but his early strike from 25 yards was sliced wide.
It wasn't until the 23rd minute that the Magpies had their next clear sight of goal when French did well to get his head on an Olly Gill corner, but he couldn't direct it on target and it was only 3 minutes later that the visitors prospered from their own corner. Daniel Bolwell delivered a sweetly struck in-swinging corner, which evaded Carruthers' attempted claim and Joel Colbran couldn't react quick enough to the ball suddenly being upon him and it duly deflected into the net to give Town the lead. It could so easily have been worse for the hosts minutes later as Arron Capon did well down the left before squaring to Sam Willett but French did exceptionally well to throw himself in front of his shot and block the ball to safety.
Just after the half hour Colbran accurately set Frankland away down the left and his ball in was laid off by Gill to Harry Bachelor, but he couldn't keep his angled drive down and he fared no better 3 minutes later as he cut in from the left after being found by Lewis Scally but his shot from the edge of the areas was straight at Greg Nessling in the visitor's goal. With 4 minutes to go in the half Town thought they had doubled their lead when a deep corner was turned back to the far post and although David Smart turned the ball home, the assistant on the far side adjudged him to be offside and as such there was only the one goal in it at the break.
Where the first half had been an evenly contested contest with the visitors shading the number of clearer chances, the second period was definitely a one-sided affair and the hosts could well have been ahead in the opening minutes of the half but for well-timed blocks on shots from Frankland and then Bickell. Nessling then had to be alert to smother the ball at Napper's feet after he had exchanged passes with Bachelor, but he was able to comfortably watch Frankland's drive fly over on 55 minutes. 10 minutes later Scally put substitute Charlie Pitcher through on goal but Nessling stood up well as the striker bore down on goal and duly blocked the effort. The visiting 'keeper had to be at his best 5 minutes later when Colbran won the ball high up the pitch and unleashed a swerving and dipping strike that the stopper did very well to beat away and then recover to claim an acrobatic volley from Bickell on the follow-up.
With 15 minutes left Scally put Pitcher in behind the back line again and he's curling effort from the left narrowly dropped wide of the far post. This was soon followed by a snap-shot by Bickell from a tight angle, but again Nessling was on hand to block. A minute later the visitors were arguably lucky to still have their full complement of players as Daniel Rogers brought down Pitcher when clean through on goal but the referee saw it only befitting of a booking.
This seemed to strengthen Town's resolve and they were able to keep the Magpies at bay until injury time, however they had to be at their most resilient to keep it that way. A deep ball into the box by Napper was met by Colbran but his header was punched clear by Nessling, but only to Bachelor who fired towards goal, but it was blocked behind for a corner. After that was over-hit, Holvey did well to recycle the ball and found Scally on the edge of the box who shot on the turn, but again, the goal-bound was blocked and with that went the hosts' last opportunity to claim something from a match that they had the lion's share of.
As disappointing as it was to come away from the match with no points, there were plenty of positives to take from the performance, particularly in the second half, and the Magpies will now look to take that to Newhaven in a week's time in another match against a fellow top half opponent.
Team: Bachelor, Bickell, Carruthers, Colbran, Frankland (Warren 65), French (Daniel 83), Gill, Holvey, Napper, Scally & Swaine (Pitcher 61) Subs not used: Camp and Pittock