The Magpies moved into the new year with a visit of local side Broadbridge Heath and on the back of a disappointing Christmas period where they failed to register a point. To make matters worse, Ollie Moore was serving a one match ban for picking up his 5th yellow card of the season at Pagham and Dan Mosby was only fit enough to be on the bench.
The game itself so nearly got off to a wretched start for the hosts too as in just the third minute Josh Courtney was adjudged to have brought down Jake Holmes in the area to give the visitors a golden opportunity to seize the initiative. As it happens Holmes blazed his spot kick wide, although Sam Smith had dived the right way and may well have saved it had it been on target. Holmes was presented with a great chance to make amends 10 minutes later when he cleverly got in behind, but Smith was swiftly off his line to block the effort and the ball rebounded too wide for the striker to be able to turn home from a very acute angle.
This sparked the Magpies into action and only moments later Michael Wood latched on to good work by Dean Wright and let fly from 25 yards, but it cleared the crossbar comfortably. A minute later it was the turn of Byron Napper to threaten as he drove to the edge of the area, this time the resulting shot gave Michael Chester far more cause for concern, but the effort went narrowly wide of the far post. 5 minutes later The Bears had another good sight of goal when good work down the right by Tom Frankland resulted in a low cross that Tim Martin did well to turn towards goal, but Smith gathered well at close range. From there the ball went straight up the other end where Wood fed the ball into Wright, who held off his marker and turned neatly before firing another effort that just evaded the target. Wright was at the fore again in the 26th minute when he shot was well blocked by Martyn Flack, but Naim Rouane did well to recycle the move and lay the ball back to Wood who volleyed just wide from 20 yards out.
The early end-to-end action appeared to take its toll on both sides as the rest of the half petered out into an attritional affair with plenty of hustle and bustle on a pitch that was very heavy as a result of all the rainfall over the festive period, but it should be recognised that the game would not have been on at all were it not for the work of our excellent grounds staff.
The visitors started the second half as brightly as they did the first, and should have taken the lead in the 51st minute when a corner was only partially cleared, but Gicu Ioroache couldn't control his volley and the ball cleared the target with ease. The Heath wide man had the next opportunity just after the hour too when he did very well down the left before cutting inside and shooting, but again, he failed to trouble Smith. Five minutes later, his teammate George Cousins broke clear of the defence, but once again the composure in front of goal was lacking and the ball was dragged wide. As it happens just a minute later Ioroache had another sighter, and although this time it was on target, Smith was equal to it and held quite comfortably.
In the 72nd minute Heath missed their clearest chance of the game so far, albeit in confusing circumstances. The Assistant's signal for offside was bemusingly ignored by the referee who allowed play to continue for the cross to find Holmes unmarked 8 yards out, but his header was too close to Smith and again the danger was snuffed out. The next minute saw a considerable change in momentum though as Tom Howard-Bold supplemented his earlier booking for dissent with too strong a challenge on Wright that attracted a second yellow without too much complaint.
With the numerical advantage, The Magpies sought to seize the opportunity. Within moments Wright neatly played in Joe Holvey advancing from the right, but it was his turn to drag a shot wide, however he made up for it just 2 minutes later. Some excellent interplay between Callum Jardim and Wright on the left saw the latter square the ball across the 6-yard box where Holvey had ghosted in to slot home with just 11 minutes remaining.
The Magpies did well for the next period of play to retain possession and deprive their visitors of any opportunity to get themselves back into the tie, however with 3 minutes remaining they gave the ball away too easily in the middle third, and whilst there was still much to do good work by Shaun Findley and Scott Weller saw the ball find its way to Martin who drove into the area before floating an effort across Smith from a tight angle that went in off the far post much to the jubilation of the travelling support.
Despite that comeback, The Magpies still had chances to win it in added-on time. First Harry Bachelor chose to pass when in on goal and the chance was blocked out for a corner which came to nothing; then with mere seconds remaining the referee chose to play on instead of awarding a penalty for a strong challenge on Wright, but the ball went out to Dan Mobsby who's 20-yard drive was destined for the top corner before Chester acrobatically tipped the effort over and ensured the draw.