After an impressive showing last time out at high-flying Eastbourne Town, the Magpies faced another stern test on Tuesday night, this time in the shape of Chichester City's visit to The Nest. After falling at the final hurdle last season the visitors had clearly begun the season with the intention not to let history repeat itself and with the hosts still hampered by a number of injuries, and now Tom Familton serving a one match suspension for reaching 5 bookings, the Magpies had a lot in front of them.
And so it proved after just 15 seconds! A long ball from the kick-off wasn't cut out, but striker Scott Jones certainly wasn't in an easy spot, however the league's top scorer neatly clipped the ball up before unleashing a left-footed volley from 20 yards on the angle that flew past Brendan Milborrow to give the visitors the perfect start. A reaction nearly came just 3 minutes later but Dean Wright's snapshot was well turned away for a corner by Chi stopper Antony Ender. The visitors really should have doubled their lead in the 11th minute when Lorrenzo Dollcetti met a cross at the far post, but his volley from point-blank range was somehow turned over by Milborrow
The momentum of the game was somewhat lost after 18 minutes when an accidental clash of heads between Tiago Andrade and Chichester skipper Jack Lee led to a lengthy stoppage and both men requiring heavily bandaged heads, but both would go on to have battling performances for the full 90. With 6 minutes to go in the half the Magpies thought they had a penalty when Andrade was bundled over by Ender, but to the confusion of many a free kick was awarded in the opposite direction. With that decision still resonating the visitors doubled their lead when Dan Heggarty advanced forward and speculative shot from 25 yards, but his boldness was rewarded as the ball deflected off Joe Holvey (above) and wrong-footed Milborrow who couldn't recover to prevent the ball nestling in the bottom corner. Within the plentiful injury time a cross from the left by Jordan Warren was well met by Andrade and although he directed the ball back across goal to beat Ender, it didn't defeat the woodwork and the ball agonisingly came back off the crossbar.
The Magpies took the field in the second half sensing that the next goal would be vital to the outcome of the game and with 9 minutes of the half played they put the cat amongst the pigeons when Gary Pritchard deflected Byron Napper's freekick past the advancing Ender and the covering defender could do nothing to prevent the ball ending up in the end under pressure from Eddie French. Despite still holding the lead, they were noticeably become less comfortable as the Magpies applied the pressure , but they couldn't fashion a clear opportunity to capitalise and in the end they paid the price. The hosts failed to clear the ball effectively within a number of separate phases of play and after Milborrow could only parry a Jones shot, the ball was well recycled to Josh Clack who let fly from the angle of the box and saw the ball hit the top corner for what appeared to be the clincher.
They didn't count on the Magpies coming back again though and when a Napper free kick 5 minutes from time was misjudged, Holvey reacted well and kept his cool to neatly tuck the ball past Ender and set up a grandstand finish. Ender appeared to present a golden opportunity in the 89th minute when he missed the ball whilst attempting to sweep, but fortunately for him the angle was too tight for Wright to easily take advantage and Lee was able to get back and cover his 'keeper. The final whistle was imminent and as such the hosts pushed forward in search of the equaliser and with that they left themselves vulnerable at the back and with the last phase of the game the visitors took advantage as Dave Herbert broke clear and held his nerve to beat Milborrow low down to kill off the spirited comeback that came so close to rescuing a point.