Harleston Magpies Mixed team sponsored by Parson Estate Agents have regained the National Mixed crown following a weekend of exciting hockey at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre in London.
The squad that have been together for 5 seasons now have won the competition for the second time in three years.
The squad had a few changes from last season’s adventure at Lee Valley, they were without Katrina Sitch, James Meek, Dickon Taylor, Frances Taylor and John Livings and had picked up Jess Howland, Katherine Ridley, Thomas Ridley, Lucy Belsey, Chris Leek and Laura Tibbenham.
Semi-final Harleston Magpies 4 Spencer 1
In the semi-final that took place on the Saturday the team faced Spencer on a baking afternoon in the capital. Harleston started well and dominated the early stages of the game. The team eventually get their just rewards when Maria Andrews converted a penalty corner with a hard low shot that left the post man with no chance. A lack of concentration 15 minutes into the game allowed Spencer the chance to equalise as they took a quick free hit the ball found Duncan Graves in the circle where the ex-Magpie turned and fired an unstoppable shot with his reverse stick. This goal caused a swing in the momentum and it was now Spencer who looked the more dangerous side. However, the back line for Harleston of Jess Howland, Leigh Sitch, Andrew Bedwell, Katherine Ridley, Lucy Belsey and Lauren Mickleburgh stood firm and limited the number of shots that Chris Leek had to face.
Against the run of play and with 30 seconds remaining of the half Harleston retook the lead when Maria Andrews grabbed her second of the day with a reverse stick finish. Harleston went into half time knowing that they had the lead but hadn’t played to their full potential.
In the second half Harleston found their rhythm and soon extended the lead with a flowing move. Thomas Ridley and Tim Whiteman shifted the ball right early on in Harleston’s own half before they found Lizzie Clymer who fed the ball into Lucy Whiting. Lucy beat one player before she found Simon Hipwell just behind the penalty spot. The dynamic midfielder steamed into the circle and with a diving slap dispatched his goal superbly.
Harleston soon rounded of the scoring and a convincing win when Robbie Kinsella and Richard Larkin combined to win a short corner with a few minutes left. Maria Andrews stepped up again to smash the ball home to complete her hat-trick.
In the second semi-final of the day Khalsa came back from two goals down to beat Stourport 3-2.
Final Harleston Magpies 1 Khalsa (Warks) 1
(Magpies won 3 – 2 in the penalty shootout)
In the final on the Sunday Harleston faced a strong Khalsa side. The two teams had met last year at the quarter-final stage at the Nest with Harleston running out winners. The 2017 Khalsa side looked like a stronger outfit than the one that Harleston had faced previously.
Harleston made the worst possible start to the game with only 3 minutes on the clock they found themselves a goal down following a loose ball breaking to a Khalsa forward in the circle who at the second time of asking was able to beat Chris Leek in goal.
Despite this set back Harleston grew into the game and started to create chances of their own. Thomas Ridley blazed over the bar after beating three Khalsa players and Maria Andrews deflected a couple of efforts just wide of the goal following a couple of balls being crashed into the circle. Khalsa then had a glorious opportunity to extend their lead but the half volley effort sailed just wide of the post. 2 minutes after this miss Harleston drew level when Tim Whiteman and Leigh Sitch played out of the left releasing Simon Hipwell who found Tim Whiteman again. The ball was played into Maria Andrews before she found Lizzie Clymer who calmly slid the ball past the advancing keeper.
With the teams level at the break an open second half ensued with both teams creating but not converting chances to snatch the lead. Andrew Bedwell was in commanding form at the back for Harleston as he marshalled the defensive line again ensuring that Khalsa attacks were repelled well by Jess Howland, Lauren Mickleburgh, Katherine Ridley, Leigh Sitch, Lucy Belsey and Richard Larkin. When called upon Chris Leek in goal was in outstanding form quickly closing down angles and making two world class saves to keep Harleston in the game. As time ticked on Harleston started to take control and finished the better team, a good ball from Lauren Barber allowed Maria Andrews to fire a reverse stick shot destined for the top corner to be turned away by the diving Khalsa goal keeper.
With minutes left Robbie Kinsella and Lucy Whiting combined to find Simon Hipwell whose reverse stick effort went narrowly wide of the post. A thrilling final finished 1-1 and the trophy would be decided on a penalty shuffle competition.
Harleston took an early lead as Tim Whiteman converted his shuffle and Khalsa missed. The two teams continued to trade blows with Chris Leek making two excellent stops and Robbie Kinsella (drawing on his vast experience) converted his shuffle to leave the teams tied again at 2-2. Sudden death and now Harleston’s turn to go first. Tim Whiteman converted his chance and Chris Leek then forced the Khalsa forward to fire wide meaning that Harleston clinched the 2017 Mixed National Trophy Title.
It has been a long mixed season for the squad who have performed well in all of the rounds and it is thanks to all the players involved.
The squad in turn would like to thank Parson Estate Agents for their continued support, the huge crowd of supporters who made the long journey to Lee Valley to support the team (once again Harleston were the best supported team there) and lastly and by no means least to the two Magpie Mascots – Nick Moss and Sam Moore.
Squad – Leigh Sitch (C), Chris Leek (GK), Andrew Bedwell, Jess Howland, Katherine Ridley, Thomas Ridley, Simon Hipwell, Lauren Mickleburgh, Lucy Belsey, Richard Larkin, Tim Whiteman, Maria Andrews, Lucy Whiting, Lizzie Clymer, Robbie Kinsella, Lauren Barber, Laura Tibbenham, Katrina Sitch (Coach) and Kevin Ridley (Manager).
Photos are courtesy of England Hockey and Ollie Denton