After a completely successful November, the Magpies visited Peacehaven & Telscombe at the start of the advent season and knew there were in for a different sort of test to that experienced in recent weeks against a side that shun the more direct style of play in favour of an attractive game plan. As such it promised to be a pleasing spectacle for the 140 that came to the Unibet Arena on a beautifully crisp, yet calm December afternoon, and it wasn't to be without its share of drama. The visitors made just the one change to their starting line-up as Dean Wright replaced Tiago Andrade up front in a tactical switch.
The Magpies made a bright start to the game, keen to provide pressure to the home back line and they made a good start to it with Michael Wood particularly getting joy down the left and had Dean Wright got more purchase on his header from an early cross it could have been the perfect opening.
As it happens the breakthrough wasn’t long in coming. Naim Rouane seized possession high up the pitch and slipped Ollie Moore into the area. The forward did well to fire across Eriksen Aga in the Peacehaven goal and the retreating defender couldn’t help but assist the ball over the line for a deserved opening goal.
6 minutes later the lead was so nearly doubled as a free kick by Moore was spilt by Aga but the big ‘keeper recovered outstandingly well to first deny Wood from the initial rebound and then Wright on the follow-up. Chances were continuing to be made as Moore went agonisingly close to getting on to the end of a Harry Bachelor square ball across the 6-yard line before Wright had another sight of goal but couldn’t hit the target.
With 30minutes gone, the hosts began to start getting themselves back into the game with some impressive movement both on and off the ball that was testing the Magpies defence. In the 34th minute Jack Phillips struck a free kick goal-wards, but Sam Smith was more than equal to it as he took a flying catch, much to the pleasure of the photographers in the crowd. He was unable to prevent the equaliser in the 40th minute though. A recycled corner saw a deep swinging ball put into the area and whilst all thought it would fade out of play, Ellis Cowd has other ideas and rose well to head the ball back to the edge of the 6-yard box where Phillips was on hand to emphatically dispatch a volley into the roof of the net.
Despite the hosts having the better of the play towards the end of the half, the Magpies could still have gone into the break in the lead as a well worked corner saw Byron Napper deliver low to the edge of the area where Moore met the ball and lashed it towards goal, but his effort was just a foot over.
The visitors didn’t start the second half as they’d have liked, being a little slow out of the blocks and Peacehaven didn’t miss the opportunity to capitalise. Cameron Wiltshere slipped Joshua Marshall in behind the back line and when he squared to Curtis Ford, the covering Eddie French was adjudged to have caught the man just before the ball with his challenge and referee Richard Sargeant pointed to the spot. Wiltshere stepped up to calmly send Smith the wrong way and the turnaround was complete.
This belatedly kickstarted the Magpies’ second half and they began to employ the level of intensity in their passing and movement that saw them dominate the opening half hour.
A cross from Wood found its way to Bachelor but his first touch saw the angle tighten and Aga was able to block the eventual effort. Tiago Andrade was introduced from the bench as more men were committed forward and he nearly made a quick impact, but his volley flew narrowly past the far post with Aga beaten. He would go closer in the 88th minute when he unleashed another volley after a neat take-down but Peacehaven’s stopper did brilliantly t9 dive full length to tip the ball over.
As the game descended into added-on time the tension was increasing and with it came the game’s most prominent talking point. A deep cross from the right to the back post was met by French who headed goal-ward from just a yard out. Whilst the effort was cleared by a scrambling defender it was believed to be after the ball had clearly crossed the line by all those in proximity to the incident. Unfortunately for the Magpies that wasn’t the contention of the officials and play was waved on amidst numerous protests to the contrary.
There was still enough time for the Magpies to get the ball forward with numbers very much committed in pursuit of what would have been a deserved leveller, but the opportunity was lost and Peacehaven took the opportunity to break. To their credit they executed a lovely flowing move down the left-hand side before squaring the ball to Marshall who slotted home to seal the game with what was the last meaningful action of the afternoon.
This was a match between two sides that are keen to keep the ball on the grass as much as possible and they both very much took the opportunity to go toe-to-toe on a surface that enabled them to do so. It wasn’t to be the Magpies’ day on this occasion and of course there are things to improve on, but there was plenty to be pleased by too. With this result ending a five-game winning streak, it is important for our season’s ambitions that we look for a positive response when Eastbourne United visit The Nest on Saturday.