After the Magpies' impressive showing at Shoreham in midweek (despite falling to defeat in extra time), they made the short journey down the A29 to Arundel delighted that the match was even on given the heavy rain that had fallen overnight and in the morning before kick off. The visitors were forced to make two changes with Jon Dollery absent and Harrison Hilfiker serving his one match suspension following his sending off at Eastbourne Town two weeks earlier, as such Joel Colbran and Jake Foyster came into the starting line-up.
They nearly got off to the best possible start when Michael Wood delivered a cross to the back post inside 30 seconds where Byron Napper got up well but his header was weak although it didn't stop James Fernandes in the Arundel goal fumbling it, although there was nobody following in. The host's talisman, Nathan Da Costa soon had his side's first meaningful effort on goal when his strike was half stopped by Foyster, but Napper was now at the other end to complete the clearance. This prompted the best period of the game for the Mullets as in the 9th minute Dion Jarvis ran from deep to arrive unmarked in the box but he was unable to control his effort with the goal very much at his mercy. Just 4 minutes later Jordan Dudas had their next effort when he seized on a half cleared corner but his drive from some distance was comfortably gathered by Foyster.
In the 15th minute the hosts looked certain to take the lead when a deep cross was headed back across goal to the awaiting Asa Nicholson who stabbed his effort goal wards, but somehow Foyster managed to get down low to his right to make an exceptional save. Amidst the home pressure, Napper did have a chance to grab a goal against the run of play when he got on the end of a whipped cross from Colbran, but he couldn't keep the ball down. Magpies skipper, Eddie French had to be at his best on the half hour when Barney Boutwood delivered a ball into the onrushing Jarvis, but the experienced defender put in a masterfully timed challenge to avert the danger. The visitors survived another scare six minutes later when Colbran lost Nicholson at the far post but the resulting shot was parried behind by the ever-alert Foyster.
There was little else for either side to cheer in the first half, although the Magpies did have to make an unplanned substitution just before the break when Harvey Enticknap sustained a deep gash to his foot following a challenge from behind, which signalled the arrival of Charlie Pitcher from the bench.
Whilst the hosts definitely had the better of the play and the chances in the first half, the second was to prove a very different affair. The warning signs were there in the 56th minute when Colbran and Napper combined for the latter to cross but Wood's header looped just wide and two minutes later Colbran was in the action again, this time setting Toby House away down the right but the young forward's expertly driven cross didn't have the same quality of runs into the box to meet it. Moments later the Magpies turned to doing the defending for their opponents when Pitcher's apparently goal bound shot was blocked by Wood!
However, there soon followed a four minute period that would see the game being firmly seized by the visitors. A corner by Mark Cave in the 61st minute was partly cleared in the nick of time when Clyde Jacques was about to stab home, but only as far as Jay Lovett, who demonstrated all his experience to calmly clip the ball to the back post, which again was only part cleared, but this time it fell to Pitcher who volleyed firmly past James Fernandes to break the deadlock. The lead could have doubled just a minute later when Colbran made ground down the right before delivering an excellent cross to the arriving Lewis Scally, but this time it was Arundel's Scott Tipper that timed his challenge perfectly. It wouldn't be long for the next opportunity though and this time it was taken, as in the 64th minute Wood and House combined well down the left but the latter's shot was blocked and spun up into the gloomy sky but only as far as the now advanced Wood who volleyed, left-footed from 20 yards into the far corner to make it 0-2.
With the hosts very much rocking from this quick-fire double, they were hit again a minute later as another swift move saw Pitcher slipped in down the right and this time a cross from that area had a run on the end of it befitting its quality as Wood arrived to clipped the ball beautifully across Fernandes and into the top corner to virtually seal the points, although he had another chance for more a further 4 minutes later. Scally and House linked up well on the left for the latter to set the ball for Wood on the edge of the box, but he blazed the hat-trick opportunity well over the bar.
Pitcher nearly matched Wood's brace in the 74th minute when stepped inside to create space for himself but Fernandes did well to stop it although he must have been relieved that Jacques was adjudged to be offside on the follow-up. Even at this stage it became apparent that both sides knew the game was run and legs were starting to look very heavy on a pitch that had absorbed an awful lot of water. Despite that Boutwood did have a chance to get one back in the 81st minute when he drove across the edge of the box before finding enough space to get a shot away but it failed to trouble Foyster who had been little more than a bystander in the second period.
Pitcher had time to fashion another opportunity with 3 minutes to go when he was found on the left again by Napper, but his shot, from a similar angle to Wood's 18 minutes earlier, also flew comfortably over the bar. Injury time brought a late chance for Cave when he seized on a loose ball to drive forward but he skewed his ambitious effort well wide in what would prove to be the last meaningful action of the game.
The final whistle marked the end of a professional performance that admittedly had to ride its luck in stemming the early tide of pressure from the hosts but then produced a blitz of quality that knocked the stuffing out of Arundel and with it secure the Magpies their first victory in five attempts, but ensures they return home for their next game against Littlehampton Town in high spirits.
FT - 0-3
Loxwood Team: Cave, Colbran (Ramsey 73), Enticknap (Pitcher 44), Foyster, French, House (Daniel 71), Jacques, Lovett, Napper, Scally & Wood
Subs not used: Camp & Jee
1. James Fernandes
2. Lewis Jenkins
3. Ash Hunter (57 mins)
4. Jordan Dudas
5. Scott Tipper
6. Dion Jarvis (82 mins)
7. Barney Boutwood
8. Nathan DaCosta (Capt)
9. Harry Russell (70 mins)
10. Ash Harper
11. Asa Nicholson
12. Rory Biggs
14. Pete Butt (82 mins)
15. Spencer Adams (57 mins)
16. Archie Thorpe (70 mins)
17. Stuart McDonald
Attendance - 41
Goal Scorers - None
Yellow Cards - Ash Hunter
Red cards - None