The Magpies visited league-leaders Haywards Heath Town to complete what had a been an eventful week. After a well-earned point at Eastbourne Town 7 days earlier, they were punished for their mistakes by a solid Chichester side midweek and since then they have seen Joel Colbran understandably depart for Worthing FC but also been delighted to welcome Naim Rouane into the fold and there was a very positive atmosphere in the dressing room ahead of this most testing of matches with the shared knowledge that all were pulling in the same direction.
The visitors started the match well and had the first clear-cut opportunity in the 10th minute when Dean Wright latched onto a clipped ball into the box but his volley flew narrowly over the crossbar from 12 yards and 5 minutes later they had the next chance too. Neat play in the midfield saw Tiago Andrade slipped in behind the defence but he couldn't quite get ahead of the covering defender and from the angle went with the outside of his right foot rather than his left giving Joshua Heyburn in the home goal an easier job of blocking the ball out to safety.
The Magpies would rue these missed opportunities as the hosts would not prove so charitable when two significant errors were made in a matter of as many minutes. In the 19th minute a cross from the left was poorly cleared straight to Trevor McCreadie and he dispatched the ball expertly into the far corner from the edge of the area, giving Brendan Milborrow no chance. The visitors then went two down when a simple long ball from the back was allowed to go straight through and McCreadie duly dispatched the ball into the back of the net.
To their credit, the Magpies rallied after this double setback and when DJ Dominique (who was making his first senior start for the Club) put in a dangerous looking long throw to the near post, Andrade managed to get enough of a touch to lay the ball to the far post where Michael Wood was waiting to guide the ball into the corner to reduce the deficit. The visitors failed to consolidate the position they'd fought for though and 2 minutes later poor marking at a Heath corner resulted in a goal-line scramble that Alfie Rodgers eventually dispatched into the roof of the net to reclaim the two-goal advantage. It could have been worse 4 minutes before the break after good work down the right by Joel Daly culminated into a ball into McCreadie but somewhat inexplicably blazed over and so it remained 3-1 at the break.
The men from The Nest began the second period well, keen to make amends for the errors of the first half, however, that effort was disappointingly 'rewarded' with the awarding of a penalty against them just after the hour mark when Rodgers went down all too easily in the area. McCreadie stepped up to claim his hat-trick by burying the ball into the bottom left-hand corner. The decision-making was evened up ten minutes later when a foul on Wood in the opposite error also prompted the referee to point to the spot. Unfortunately where Town succeeded, the Magpies would not as Ollie Moore's penalty was comfortably saved by Heyburn to his left-hand side (above) and the rebound failed to fall for Andrade who was following in and the ball was cleared to safety.
The visitors (as was the case in the cup game here last month) did not give up on the cause and created a glimmer of hope with 7 minutes left when substitute Harry Bachelor fed Moore and he neatly laid in the onrushing Byron Napper who emphatically fired the ball across Heyburn into the far top corner. 5 minutes later Napper very nearly doubled-up as he ghosted in at the far post to meet a Bachelor cross but he couldn't keep his flying volley down and the last chance of the match for both sides had gone.
For the second time in less than 4 weeks the Magpies would leave Hanbury Park having paid heavily for some rudimentary mistakes that would undermine some very pleasing aspects of their play. Credit must go to the hosts who clinically punished those errors and it is that degree of ruthlessness that sees them where they are in the table and rightly favourites to go one better than they did last term.