The Magpies returned to Plaistow Road on the back of a very pleasing performance and result on Easter Saturday at Chichester City. Ahead of them was a match against local side Broadbridge Heath who were just a point behind their hosts at the start of proceedings. There were just a couple of changes to the home starting line-up with Alfie Gritt replacing the absent Ross Swaine and Adam Williams coming in for Harry Bachelor, who was rested as a result of an injury suffered a couple of weeks previously.
The hosts started with a high intensity and that swiftly paid dividends when Byron Napper (above) towered above the midfield in the sixth minute to head the ball into the path of the on-rushing Tiago Andrade and he calmly evaded Heath 'keeper Michael Chester before tapping home. Eight minutes later Napper himself so nearly doubled the lead when an incisive move down the left saw Jordan Warren clip a delightful ball into the central midfielder who volleyed sweetly but saw the ball thunder back off the crossbar with Chester well beaten. The rebound made its way to the supporting Tom Frankland but Chester recovered well to push away his drive, which appeared destined for the far corner.
Despite all this early pressure, the visitors struck back against the run of play in the sixteenth minute. Jahobi Maher did very well down the left before cutting in and curling a tantalising ball into the area that perfectly dissected the space between the two centre backs and found skipper Marlon Maxwell, who had ghosted into the box, and he consummately steered his header back across Dave Carruthers in the Magpies' goal and inside the far post to level the scores.
The equaliser knocked the stuffing out of the hosts, and whilst they continued to dominate the possession, they were failing to create any further clear-cut chances, whilst Heath were looking to feed off errors at the back with a game plan that appeared to be based upon gaining territorial position as early as possible. The only meaningful sight of goal that either side had for the remainder of the first period was just after the half hour mark when Frankland put a deep cross into the box and found Ollie Moore, but his touch down caught Andrade on his heels and the ball harmlessly trickled out for a goal kick.
After a halftime that focussed on remaining patient and calm whilst looking to move the ball a bit quicker, the hosts nearly did just that as Scally stretched to volley back across goal, but he got his angles wrong and once Frankland had rescued the ball and delivered it back into the area Williams was on hand to rise up at the back post but his header went tamely into the hands of the grateful Chester.
With nine minutes gone in the second period the visitors carved out two opportunities that should have seen them take the lead. Firstly, a cross from the left found its way to Jamal Sultan who drove at goal from a tight angle but Carruthers comfortably smothered it. Then, just a minute later Jamie Liddell was given time and space to line up a strike from 25 yards and whilst he connected well, a vicious deflection left Carruthers stranded but he was relieved to see the ball come back off the woodwork.
Just after the hour mark it was the hosts' turn to inflict damage when their opponents were arguably on top. Colbran switched play out to Frankland on the right who duly set Michael Wood away in the right channel at pace and when Andrade stepped over his pass it was to feed Napper who was bursting into the area and he fired the ball across Chester and in off the far post to reclaim the lead. The Bears could have been back on level terms moments later when a deep free kick in a central area failed to be cleared and allowed Maher to get a volley away, but on this occasion, it was comfortably fielded by Carruthers.
The Magpies had a free kick of their own in a prominent position moments later but Wood was unable direct his header from Napper's delivery goalward and Chester was untroubled. Once again, the game descended into a scrappy affair although the battle for the midfield remained compelling although the hosts were clearly keeping their opponents at arm's length and Maher's audacious effort from fully 35 yards with 7 minutes to go was the epitome of the visitor's play over the closing phases of the game. Maher did have one last effort, again from distance, but Carruthers, somewhat theatrically, pushed the ball around the post for a corner, which duly came to nothing.
There was still time for the hosts to threaten a third goal in added time, as Frankland made headway down the right again before feeding Alfie Gritt, and when the forward cut in from the left it looked as though the goal would open up for him as the opposition defence tired, but he miscued his left-footed effort and the ball dribbled through to Chester. Moments later referee Adrian Harris signalled the end of the game and at the third time of asking this season the Magpies had secured victory over their nearby competitors and with it made it 6 games unbeaten and 5 wins in succession.
The Magpies will next face what is probably the hardest task in the league at present, a visit to Haywards Heath Town who top the table and are just two wins away from securing the league title. All at the Club are looking forward to the challenge.
Team: Andrade (Daniel 90), Carruthers, Colbran, Frankland, Gritt, Moore, Napper, Scally, Warren, Williams & Wood (Bachelor 76) Subs not used: Camp & House