Mens 3rd Team v Norwich Dragons 1 (Home (L) W 4-2)
An unbeaten visiting team on 10 points against a home team not yet off the mark. A miss match? Well potentially. But the home players were looking at it quite differently and saw it as an opportunity, at home and on the water, to prove they could play in this league.
However the initial exchanges saw the visitors shading it bringing a couple of telling saves from George Baldwin in the home goal. This defensive strength certainly helped Magpies and gradually the midfield and forwards began to find some wriggle room, no more so than Kieran Peters. From a quick turnover he weaved from the right channel across the pitch before beating the keeper on the reverse. A goal you would be satisfied to score once in a season. But not for Kieran. About 5minutes later he was at it again with almost a carbon copy. 2-0 up, lots of quality and looking solid. Almost the perfect half which Kieran looked like he would cap with a hat trick after great work by Gavin Cole. However Dragons flew up the other end to secure a short corner which they would convert.
Dragons took this momentum into the second half and started to look the more likely to score next. But a resolute wall of white kept their opponents at bay and when skipper Matt Brand stole the ball and drove into the circle he did the only sensible thing and teed up Kieran to beat the keeper for a third time.
To keep the spectators guessing, Dragons would respond with a poached short corner goal but Magpies had the belief and with Jamie Hudson and Jack Richards (both fullbacks) keeping their side on the front foot a well earnt short corner was duly converted by Matt Brand; and the breathing space was again in place.
A couple of small scares later and the points were in the bag. 4-2 and onwards and upwards.
Mens 3rd Team vs Dereham 2nd Team (Away (L) L 0-1)
After an enforced week off Magpies men’s third team got back into action against Dereham 2nd team. Setting out to be well disciplined, organised and hard to beat the travelling team delivered on all of those things keeping chances of their opponents chances to a minimum. With the experienced pairing of Taylor and Brice looking on top of their game. When Dereham did manage to play round the Magpies defence it was debutant Chris Routes in goal who kept them out.
Slightly shading the first half play the home team had a goal lead to show for it with the experienced Mark Baybrook scoring from a broken down short corner.
Unusually for Magpies their forward play was not up to the usual standard and although this was identified and tackled after half time if proved to be a day where goals would not come. The closet attempt being when man of the match Dickon Taylor hit the post.
So the promoted third team, competing but still looking to put points on the board.
Mens 3rd Team vs Mens 2nd Team (Home (L) L 3-11)
You’ve got to love an inter club match! Well that’s what the large number of spectators clearly thought as the Men’s Third team hosted the Men’s Second team in front of a crowd which matched in size the national league ladies match that proceeded it.
No doubt hoping for a close match to get into they would have been encouraged when Gavin Cole, found unmarked in the last third of pitch by Robert Kinsella, took the ball around the keeper to finish and put the underdogs in front. However the best thing for the neutral spectators would have been for the thirds to have frustrated their “visitors” and kept the ball better but unfortunately several back to back errors gifted a three goal salvo which would effectively seal the match in the first 20 minutes.
Either side of half time it was good to see the seconds get into their stride and combine as a team to ruthlessly stretch their lead to 10! Jamie Legg deserving particular mention with 5 goals. It was a chastening experience for the third team players and supporters who have largely been untroubled at home for over 3 years but despite lessen odds every challenge was still entered into as if it was still 0-0 and every attack was supported by runners who looked like they were in pursuit of the winner not a mere consolation. And indeed latecomers to the match might have been surprised by the last ten minutes as the third team scored not one but two consolations, both claimed by Greg Jagger. Within this spell further chances also came from good work by Robert Kinsella, David Cadman, and notably debutant Kieran Peters. So, 11-3 but was the last 10 minutes due to compassion by the 2s? Or good commitment and fitness by the threes? The players and spectators withdrew to the bar to discuss.
Mens 3rd Team vs Bury St Edmunds 1st Team (Away (L) L 0-1)
Last season Magpies Men’s 3s & Bury St Edmunds were extremely closely matched with each fixture won by the home side. Other results meant that Bury St Edmunds would shade the season probably as a virtue of their first team status, but with the 2 starting elevens being composed of largely the same protagonists it was clear that we would be in for another close one.
The early skirmishes were shared evenly with Bury forcing a couple of short corners without success whilst James Stacey and Matt Brand combined down the right to pick out David Cadman who saw his shot blocked.
With the pattern of the game established both sides were looking to be physical and strong in defence and fast and inventive in attack. After 25 minutes one such fast Bury attack would turn Magpies midfield, and as they strove to get back into position a well-chosen pass behind them would allow Burys best player on the day to pick out a committed forwarded diving across George Baldwin in goal to deflect into the top corner. However with no reason to change things Magpies strove on and with the time at an end in the first half thought they had equalised when a squared ball from Jon Aldridge at a short corner was all but in but no final touch could be found.
With the home side realising the importance of an early season win in this much harder league they began to commit less to the attack. They still broke at pace but Jack, Jak, Jamie and Jon in defence limited their chances to one rising reverse stick shot and a couple of tame paddles. Meanwhile at the other end Magpies creative players were beginning to get more and more to work with and saw; shots well saved, shots on more than one occasion turned off the line or frustratingly hitting the wrong side of the post. And as time run out Magpies would ultimately be frustrated by a combination of missed opportunities or wrong choices.
With many candidates for Man of the Match it was narrowly awarded to Jak Middleton for his calm performance in defence alongside fellow candidate Jon Aldridge.
Mens 3rd Team vs Norwich Dragons (Home (F) W 3-2)
A friendly against one of the few teams to beat Magpies last year was just what was required as a sharpener for the forthcoming league season.
Norwich Dragons showed their quality in taking a 2-0 lead into half time. However the signs for Magpies were good, lots of attacking purpose and endeavour only denied by good goalkeeping and the defenders on the posts, with Phil Cobbald going closest.
The second half saw magpies take hold of the game creating the majority of chances. With enough chances to run through seven short corner routines it was perhaps fair when a return to the straight strike brought a goal for Matt Brand.
Good forward play continued with the exemplary James Stacey at the heart of it all. However it was his fellow forward Andy Johnson who would equalise when he smashed home from a tight angle. The highlight of the day was still to come when a turnover on the left back baseline would see magpies go the length if the field in a move that was finished by Morgan Manly concluding the 3-2 comeback win.
Magpies’ Men’s 3rds 10 Newmarket 1
After defeat to Bury St Edmunds last week Magpies were expecting a tough game against a Newmarket side just behind them in the league and especially since Newmarket had won the reverse fixture 6-1 just before Christmas. However with a full squad available Magpies felt confident that they could produce their best form when it mattered. As it turned out it didn’t matter as much as they thought, because despite playing some of their poorest hockey for several weeks they went into the break 5-0 up with good finishes from Tristan Hipper (2) and Gavin Cole and slightly scruffier efforts from Jamie Hudson and Matt Brand.
The second half saw both teams playing much better and despite Newmarket being much more resolute in defence they still found it hard to deal with a rampaging Magpies’ team who were clinical down both wings. Five more goals came with Tristan getting a third, Greg Jagger, who had a goal in the first half disallowed, adding two and Gavin and James Stacey completing the Magpies’ tally. It was not, however, the last goal as Newmarket would (in the words of defender) Tiger Brice (who was in superb form again) “ruin magpies afternoon” when they scored in the 69th minute.
So a 10-1 win, a top two finish and promotion guaranteed and with every team in the league beaten at least once Magpies can cast one eye over next season. Horncastle away anyone? However before then Magpies must complete this campaign at home to Dragons and away to Ipswich.
Bury St Edmunds 3 Magpies 3rds 0
After not being severely tested for the last 3 weeks Magpies knew they would have to up their game against the 15 man squad of Bury St Edmunds first team. Delighted to welcome back Phil Cobbald, Jon Aldridge, Jamie Hudson and James Stacey as well as coaxing one more guest appearance from Nick Whitehead, the away team were hoping that experience in the predicted close game would count.
As in most encounters between these two teams the first goal would be key and unusually for Magpies they could not convert their short corners or take a couple of early open play chances. So when Bury bobbled in a corner of their own the pattern of the game would be set. Bury, who have conceded less than a goal a game, defended robustly as Magpies tried all they had to get back into the game. Bury had a strong period just after half-time but goalkeeper Chris Flatt and his defensive team seemed to have weathered the storm. However, with the game moving on the push forward by Magpies left them vulnerable to the counter attack and with two ruthless breaks the game was settled. Magpies continued their good hockey particularly down the flanks with Tom Norton and James Stacey but a shut-out meant they came home empty handed.
Magpies’ Men’s 3rds 4 North Norfolk 1
North Norfolk were the visitors on Saturday and having put up a strong fight in the reverse fixture Magpies were expecting a tough game. However our north coast visitors have real trouble with putting out their first choice eleven and Magpies, with their own availability issues, looked to capitalize. Iain Cumming put Magpies ahead from a short corner, via a deflection, but this was cancelled by North Norfolk scoring their own corner. In a first half characterised by good intentions without the quality to execute them, it would take a goal from Gavin Cole to separate the sides at half time as he reacted fastest to a loose ball in the circle.
The second half saw some play more befitting of the Magpies’ recent form and further goals from Iain and Greg Jagger would close the game out at 4-1. An encouraging debut from Tim Goodge should be noted alongside the growing performances of David Cadman and Tom Norton. With promotion now a real possibility it is perhaps fitting that the next two games are against Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket as the race to the top goes down to the wire.
Newmarket 6 Magpies Men’s 3rds 1
If you have not lost all season then a loss is going to feel a bit odd and a 6-1 defeat is going to feel really odd.
It wasn’t for the lack of effort though and at 2-1 down, with a goal from Tom Norton, there was a game to be won. However the home side quickly scored a double which ultimately would define the result. With little between the sides in terms of territory it was Newmarket’s clinical breaking which produced two further goals in the second half making the home support very happy. The away support, however, will have to content themselves with the encouraging introduction of Tom, Rob Neal, David Cadman and Ben Kilburn; four young players from the fourth team who gradually grew into the game proving to themselves, the captain and the faithful followers that they are well on the right path.
A tough day on the pitch then but the coaches would tell you “you have to lose a few to appreciate the wins!” Onwards now to the second half of the season still top of the league!
North Norfolk 1 Magpies’ Men’s 3rds 3
On a balmy November day Cromer, bathed in that wet sunshine that it is famous for, was the destination for the men’s third team.
With very different records it may have appeared the North Norfolk would be swept away by a rampant Magpies’ team and when Greg Jagger smashed home an opener in the 8th minute this seemed the only outcome. But buoyed by many returning players this game was no procession, and when the hosts secured an equaliser through an emphatic finish of their own the game was set up for a close battle right to the end.
In the persistent rainshine both sides found it hard to carve out clear cut chances but two clinical Phil Cobbald strikes from two different short corner routines demonstrated that the third team did not just want to leave Cromer with wet kits and they duly secured a ninth win in a row. With notable performances by Jamie Hudson and Tristan Hipper, together with Lewis Belsey’s promising debut, the team stride confidently on to next Saturday’s top of the table clash against Bury St Edmunds first team.
Pelicans 2nds 2 Magpies Men’s 3rds 3
An away trip to Kings Lynn generally means you will not keep the same team as the week before but with a six players unavailable it may have seemed optimistic that Magpies could extend their perfect start to the season.
On a smart new surface and against a Pelicans team struggling to find form this season the reshaped league leaders started the game with typical vigour creating a raft of good chances. However, after 15 minutes the scoreline remained 0-0 and the home side was starting to grow in confidence.
With Magpies having no substitutes to call upon Pelicans may have felt they had weathered the storm but by committing more players to attack they gave the chance of being picked off. And regardless of the eleven Magpies are able to field there is always enough quality to play through a side who give them the chance. And so it was, a flowing Magpies move was swept home, from a season’s best six yards by Gavin Cole. And a neat restart around the circle allowed Vincent Leruth to find Greg Jagger to make it 2-0 to the visitors.
With the Harleston back four playing superbly it was always likely that a bit of luck would be required by the home side. And at 2-0 behind that luck came when a speculative raised cross/shot was deflected in. Not to be put off Magpies swept forward and a back post finish by Gavin would ensure a 2-goal lead at the break.
Much like the week before, the second half would prove a struggle with the away support expecting the leaders to kick on but things were not quite happening in the last third. A spirited Pelicans team stood up well and when another crash ball into the D was deflected home it guaranteed a frantic last 5 minutes (finally played under floodlights!) But if winning is a habit then the third team are hooked and closed out a seventh win in a row. Onwards to Sudbury 2nds at home this week.
Bury St Edmunds 2nds 1 Magpies 3rds 3
Having won the first 4 games it was unfortunate that 6 players were unavailable this Saturday for the men’s third team and their away trip to Bury St Edmunds 2nd team. And when Bury celebrated taking a one goal lead into the break it might have appeared that these changes had disrupted their serene progress. However what wasn’t on the score sheet was the hatful of chances that had fallen just the wrong side of the post or off the post or, most commonly, off the goalkeeper.
With instruction to keep playing the same the second half proved that the third team squad is rich in talented players. Alex K and David C making noticeable contributions, David on debut.
The arrears were quickly removed. The ever alert Phil C travelling into the vacant space in front of him before finding Gavin C who picked his spot. Then a short corner was stopped on the line by a foot which allowed Phil to convert. The next short corner was then put away by the captain Matt and the game was unofficially over. Sol B and Vincent L still had time to go close and with Tristan H, Jamie H and Jack R nullifying all break outs, goalkeeper Steve H, just back from holiday, had a chance to recover from his jet lag.
5 wins in a row and great preparation for the harder games ahead.
Norwich Dragons 2nds 1 Magpies 3rds 5
Over the years Magpies 3rds against Dragons have produced some classic encounters and having finished last season so strongly the hosts would have been hoping to force another one.
Magpies kept up their pattern of fast starts and early pressure soon brought a Luke E goal. A second from Jon A at a short corner and things were looking comfortable. But slick passing from the hosts would immediately half the deficit.
Back came Magpies and Phil C got his just rewards when he sneaked home a short corner, after it looked like the chance had gone.
Having played some seriously impressive passing hockey and taking a two goal lead into the break there was reason for optimism as the sides lined up for the second half. But at the same time Dragons may have felt they had weathered the storm as the movement and link play of Magpies could surely not be maintained!
A far grittier half was therefore required from the visitors as Dragons, determined to create another classic, stepped up. However when a simple triangle move produced a goal for Greg Jagger the game was effectively done.
With the remaining time, territory was conceded to the hosts but not chances. And a back four of Tiger B, Jamie H, Tristan H and Joe C shut down any opportunities; with Will G in goal superbly snuffing out anything that did creep through. Another Aldridge, Brand, Cobbald triangle would see Gavin C get on the score sheet to conclude events for another match.
Maybe not a classic this time, but with a notable team debut for Vincent L, Magpies will take a league leading perfect record into next week’s home game (3.30) against Norwich City 4ths.
IES 3s 2-4 Magpies 3s
A quick start by a Magpies team, with 5 changes from last week, saw goals by Gavin Cole and Toby Hughes establish a two goal lead. In an error ridden first section both teams struggled with conditions.
With captain Matt Brand guilty of one or two errors of his own he saw a opportunity, from a long clearance, to make amends. With 20 players on the pitch convinced it would run out of play only two players even moved and with Toby Hughes chasing the ball Matt stealthily ran past every outfield player on the pitch to get on the end of a wonderful cross from Toby and sneak the ball home.
3-0 and it may have seemed like game over. But continued shaky defending led to goals either side of half time from the hosts. At 3-2 and with the influential Stuart Fields departing to honour an umpiring commitment, it may have been a nervous final quarter. But no sooner had Stuart stepped off the pitch than the returning Gavin Cole stepped up to slam home the decisive fourth.
Not the best performance of recent season but still an away win on the board.
Norwich City 3rds 4 Harleston Magpies 3rds 4
In a fantastic winner-takes-all match for promotion both teams threw caution to the wind and played with a freedom that has characterised the league this season.
Despite an early setback Magpies equalised when Gavin Cole converted their first short corner. Norwich then regained the lead when another 60m aerial caused confusion in the away defence but Luke Edwards cancelled this out when he swept home in the twentieth minute.
By now Magpies were on the front foot and skipper Matt Brand silenced the now gathering crowd (around 50) by converting their second short corner before Norwich equalised in a desperate scramble on half time to make the score 3-3.
After the break Magpies tried to force the issue knowing one more goal would be enough but sadly a short corner conversion by the home team came next. Not bowed Magpies somehow doubled their efforts and at a fifth short corner Matt Brand made the score 4-4. Was there still time for a winner? Well there was but neither side could quite carve out that chance and with City hearing that a draw was now enough for their promotion they managed to close the game out.
Disappointment for the thirds but with the realisation that they had just played one of THE games they left the pitch to a generous reception from the home and travelling fans.
Ready for 2016-17? We will be!
Harleston Magpies Mens 3rd XI 9 – Sudbury Men 3rd XI 0
East Division 3NE
With a loss away to Lowestoft a week earlier, Magpies needed a win against bottom placed Sudbury to get their excellent start back on track. Keeper Lane returned between the posts, and the otherwise consistent team boasted two subs.
Magpies started well and peppered the visitors’ goal, with their keeper undoubtedly their hero from the start. Gavin Cole opened the scoring with a net breaker before John Aldridge scored the second to ease the crowd’s nerves. Cole scored his second before Sol Barker scored a brace to make it 5-0 at half time.
The visitors started brightly after the break and created a couple of chances but stood little chance against the rampant forward line of Cole, Barker and Fabian Mitchell, who was unlucky not to score.
Cole hit his hat trick soon after the restart Andy Johnson blasted home for 7 nil. England seniors player Aldridge scored his second for Magpies eighth before Barker finished off his hat trick.
The result could and probably should have been more, but praise must go to the Sudbury keeper who had a phenomenal game. Definitely the man of the match without question. Sudbury played the game in good faith and with some youngsters put on a good battle despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise.
Next week Magpies head to Felixstowe 2s for an 11am start looking to rain in more goals to keep them in the title chase.
SQUAD – Brand (c), Lane, Bensley, Jagger, Hipper, Richards, Joe, Aldridge, Cole, Herschel-Clarke, Johnson