Harleston Magpies came agonisingly close to winning the under 12 national championship losing one – nil in the final against Sevenoaks Hockey Club.
Earlier in the day the team put in a series of magnificent performances, to come through the group stages unbeaten. The stand out result being a two – one victory over perennial women’s hockey champions Surbiton.
Many of the girls in this group had the benefit of being part of the Magpies squad that qualified for the same championships last year, albeit as under-elevens. That maturity showed as the team put in a solid opening performance against Leicester City with centre-forward Amie Hunt scoring all three goals for the win. Magpies then really showed their collective class in the second game against a physical Clifton Robinsons team. Going behind to a soft early goal the girls rallied to win five – one with excellent work across the mid-field creating the goal opportunities. Their third victory came against Kirkby Stephen whose obdurate keeper made a series of saves to keep the score down to two – nil to Magpies.
The game against Surbiton attracted a large crowd as both teams went into the match unbeaten. They were not disappointed as they were treated to a game of the highest quality and drama. Surbiton played perfect hockey, shifting the ball around rapidly putting Magpies under continuous pressure. Keeper Catherine Pope pulled off an early save to keep Magpies in it and captain Beth Gardens was at her most industrious at centre-mid screening the defence against probing runs. Magpies looked to hit Surbiton on the break and went ahead through excellent work from Natalie Saunders down the wing setting up Amie Hunt to run in on goal and score.
Surbiton hit back immediately after half-time to level the score before a sublime piece of skill from Beth again set Amie free to run in on goal where she scored past the keeper with an outstanding back handed strike. Magpies then endured wave after wave of Surbiton attack and at the death had to defend two nail biting short-corners before the final hooter confirmed their qualification for the final.
The final against Sevenoaks was a repeat of the Eastern Region Championship match which Magpies had won on penalty flicks a few weeks earlier. With both teams aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses so it was a tense, nervous affair. After a scoreless first half Sevenoaks seemed to have a bit more running left in their legs and created more chances than Magpies , which led to a short- corner. The keeper saved the initial shot well but in the resulting melee Sevenoaks eventually powered the ball over the line. With their noses in front the Kent team then got everyone behind the ball and held out to win leaving Magpies as silver medallists after an outstanding set of performances against the very best in the Country.
Special mention to Amie Hunt the Magpies Centre forward who finished the day as the tournament’s highest scorer.
Team (goals in brackets): Alex Pearson-Smith, Amie Hunt (8), Beth Gardens (2), Daisy Wicks, Emily Clarke (1), Evie Wheeler, Natalie Saunders (1), Jasmine Freeman (GK), Catherine Pope (GK), Harriet Soper. Coaches Nick McAllen, Cathy Gardens, Assist Coach Sandra Elliner, Team Manager Michael Soper.