Saturday 6th June
In the semi final Harleston met Hampstead and Westminster hockey club who Harleston had overcome on route to the finals three years ago. Harleston started the game superbly well and were soon in control maintaining possession and creating some good goal scoring opportunities. Both Chris Barber and Toby Price went close early on for Harleston before they won a stroke on 20 minutes when a Hampstead defender blocked a shot on target with his foot on the line. Up stepped Andrew Bedwell looking to redeem his penalty stroke nightmare of three seasons ago. Andrew calmly slotted the ball low and hard past the keeper to give Harleston their deserved lead.
The rest of the first half the game continued in the same fashion as the opening 20 minutes with Harleston creating chances but being unable to convert any corners or open play passing moves.
The team knew that during the second half the next goal was vital and it was Hampstead and Westminster who came out fighting. The London side pushed Harleston back deep into their own half, however the defensive line of Katrina Sitch, Andrew Bedwell, Leigh Sitch, Richard Larkin, Robbie Kinsella and Frances Taylor stood firm to limit the amount of shots that Matt Collinge had to face. However, Matt Collinge was called into action twice in quick succession first making a save when a Hampstead forward shot from wide. The second save was exceptional as a Hampstead forward turned inside just outside the penalty spot with Matt making an excellent reflex save to tip the ball onto the cross bar and over with his stick.
This close shave spurred Harleston on and they soon regained their shape. This allowed the midfield unit of Simon Hipwell, Toby Price, Lauren Barber and Amy Campbell to link up well and start winning corners again. It was on one corner that the goal machine known as Andrew Bedwell struck again as his first shot was saved but the dynamic defender reacted first and called loudest to slot the ball home under the keeper on the rebound.
Harleston were now in complete control of the game and with Hampstead pushing forward gaps started to appear for the Harleston forwards to exploit. Lizzie Clymer bamboozled the Hampstead defence with her skills before linking up with Martin Fields who fed the ball into the circle but the chance was narrowly missed at the back post. A few moments later Harleston had the vital third goal when Lucy Whiting linked up with Maria Andrews who then fed Toby Price. Price eliminated the Hampstead left back with sheer pace before entering the circle on the t-spot, Simon Hipwell keeping up with play boxed out superbly to leave himself with the simplest tap in from one yard out.
At the restart Harleston were reduced to 10 players when Lizzie Clymer was harshly adjudged to have not been 5 yards from the restart before putting a tackle in.
Hampstead did manage to get themselves on the score sheet with one minute left when Leigh Sitch found himself under immense pressure in the circle and was forced into an error conceding a short corner. The powerful Hampstead drag flicker converted his flick well despite the best efforts of Simon Hipwell to keep it out.
The final score 3-1 with Harleston going on to meet Bedford in Sunday’s final after they had overcome Horsham 2-1 in the other semi final.
Sunday 7th June
On another warm day at Lee Valley Harleston faced a strong Bedford team in the final of the competition. Both teams knowing a lot about each other as both the men’s and women’s having met during the season in the league competition. Bedford were determined to go one step further than last year after they came runners up to West Herts.
Bedford started the final in a better manner that Harleston who found themselves on the back foot and struggling to gain possession in key areas of the pitch. Despite pushing Harleston back again the defensive unit of Katrina Sitch, Andrew Bedwell, Leigh Sitch, Robbie Kinsella, Richard Larkin, Frances Taylor and Lauren Mickleburgh stood firm and any Bedford midfielders were tracked by the Harleston midfield and forward units. After 10 minutes Harleston started to settle into the game and eventually started to win corners, the Bedford keeper was called into action on all of these but could do little when in form striker Andrew Bedwell stepped up and smashed home a short corner through the keeper’s gloves.
This goal calmed Harleston’s nerves and they continued to push for a second which duly came after good play down the right after a splitting pass from Richard Larkin found Lauren Barber who fed Maria Andrews who in turn then found Martin Fields who slipped Toby Price through into the circle. The young Magpies forward showed quick foot work to readjust and get a fierce shot away which left the keeper with no chance.
Bedford pushed forward at the end of the first half looking to grab a vital goal before the break. They did win themselves a corner which Matt Collinge saved well before Leigh Sitch managed to close down the rebound where the Bedford forward stick blocked him from clearing. With the minutes ticking down Harleston pushed forward down the left with Katrina Sitch dinking a Bedford forward before feeding Simon Hipwell who burst forward but his final pass went astray.
With Harleston leading 2-0 at half time the squad knew they needed the same level of commitment and work rate from every member of the squad to come away with the trophy. Harleston started the second half the better controlling play and not allowing target man from Bedford Simba Chigwada a clear sight of goal.
With the game becoming stretched and the Harleston forward and midfield line starting to feel the effects of the 23 degree heat tackles started to fly in. Harleston were first reduced to 10 players when Toby Price was parked for a late tackle on a breaking Bedford forward before Martin Fields was shown a yellow for a similar offence leaving the team down to 9 players. It was at this stage that Harleston played some controlling hockey keeping the ball for long periods down the left through Katrina Sitch, Simon Hipwell and Lucy Whiting.
It was then Bedford’s turn to lose a player and with both teams with 10 players it was Harleston who struck the killer blow when Lizzie Clymer and Chris Barber combined smartly in the circle forcing a stroke when a Bedford player blocked a goal bound shot on the line with his foot. Andrew Bedwell stepped up again and converted with the same clinical manner that he showed in the semi final to make the score 3-0.
With time running out Bedford took their goalkeeper off and played with 11 outfield players. Despite the man advantage the Harleston team stood strong and held out to win 3-0 and claim the National mixed trophy for the first time since 2004 and with Andrew Bedwell collecting the ‘golden stick’ for the finals weekend. The result was down to a massive team effort from every member of the squad including James Meek who could not make the finals weekend.
Squad – Matt Collinge, Leigh Sitch (C), Katrina Sitch (VC) Andrew Bedwell, Frances Taylor, Lauren Mickleburgh, Richard Larkin, Robbie Kinsella, Simon Hipwell, Lauren Barber, Toby Price, Lizzie Clymer, Martin Fields, Lucy Whiting, Chris Barber, Maria Andrews, Amy Campbell, Sam Moore (Manager) and Jon Price (Coach).
The squad would like to thank their sponsors Gryphon Hockey and Sergeant and Barber Opticians as well as the huge crowd that travelled to support the team on both days. The Harleston support was by far the largest contingent in the stadium and made it feel like we were playing at the Nest. We would also like to thank Sam Moore and Jon Price for their hard work as manager and coach for the weekend.
This was also Chris Barber’s final game for Magpies as he moves to Crewe for a new job and we wish him all the very best in the future.