Harleston Magpies Men’s indoor squad travelled to Lilleshall at the weekend to take part in the National League Division 2 North Championships. Following successful warm up tournaments at UEA and Cambridge the squad headed to the tournament in high spirits. The format of the tournament meant that Harleston would play five teams this weekend, if the team finished in the top three then they would progress to the second weekend in Bristol. Here they would play another five games with the qualifiers from the North league being joined by the qualifiers from the South league.
Cheltenham 6 – Harleston 8
In their first game of the day Harleston faced an unknown Cheltenham side who boasted the expertise of ex-Magpies Jamie Legg and James Foster. Harleston started the game quickly and soon raced into a 4-1 lead with goals coming from Simon Hipwell, Mark Wheelhouse and Chris Barber x 2. Cheltenham did pull a goal back to make the scores 4-2 going into the break, however Harleston continued to show their dominance at the start of the second half when they extended their lead to 6-2 with goals from Toby Price and Richard Larkin.
In a strong position Harleston eased off the gas and were made to pay when Cheltenham scored three quick goals. Harleston did manage to extend their lead again with two more goals, one from Price and Hipwell before they were reduced to 4 men when Chris Barber saw yellow for a vicious drilling offence when patrolling his own D. Rees Leonard performed well in goal cutting out many Cheltenham chances however the man advantage allowed Cheltenham to pull another goal back with the game finishing at 8-6 to Harleston.
Harleston 10 – Sheffield Hallam 3
The next game saw Harleston face what they feared would be the strongest team in the competition as Hallam play Premier National League outdoors. The opposition again boasting two ex-Magpies players in the form of Will Blyth and Gareth Furlong. Again Harleston started well and soon took the lead through another Mark Wheelhouse short corner. Hallam showed their intent though and scored the equaliser shortly after. This spurred Harleston on who soon scored three quick goals through Simon Hipwell, Toby Price and Chris Barber. Hallam were now wobbling with Harleston exerting more pressure they soon extended their lead with Tristan Baynes and Mark Wheelhouse adding to the goals.
Harleston continued to move the ball well in the second half stretching the opposition and using the boards well despite Hallam pulling their goalkeeper to give them a numerical advantage. Hallam did pull two goals back however but Harleston continued to show their dominance and scored four more goals before the end of the half from Toby Price, Richard Larkin, Sam Moore and Chris Barber. This result left Harleston as the only unbeaten side at the end of day 1.
Barford Tigers 5 – Harleston 9
Sunday morning saw Harleston take on Midlands side Barford Tigers. Harleston started the game in their usual slow Sunday pace and soon found themselves a couple of goals down. Harleston gained their composure as the game went on and soon fought back to half the deficit before equalising and taking the lead through goals from Chris Barber x 2 and Richard Hobley. Harleston continued to play well and extended their lead before half time with goals from Richard Larkin x 2 with Barford only pulling one goal back.
Harleston started the second half in excellent fashion and quickly went 7-3 up with goals from Sam Moore, an exquisite lob which dipped just the right side of the bar and Sam Rowe with a coolly taken flick. Sam Moore went from hero to villain after being sin binned for a deliberate break down of play in the opposition half. With the numerical advantage Barford did pull one goal back before being reduced to 4 players themselves. Harleston scored two more goals through Toby Price and Mark Wheelhouse before Barford scored with the last flick of the game.
Harleston 8 – Havering 3
Next up Harleston faced East qualifiers Havering who again boasted ex-Magpies National League shot stopper Marc Lloyd. Again Harleston made a poor start going two goals down to a couple of short corners. Again this rallied Harleston who first pulled a goal back through Simon Hipwell before Richard Hobley equalised for Harleston. It was however Havering who struck the next blow as they retook the lead. Harleston again fought back strongly and equalised on the stroke of half time when Leigh Sitch, true to his word, dispatched a powerful drag flick past the flailing Lloyd in goal, thus ending his goal drought.
With the teams going in level a stern talking to from Coach Martin Fields rallied the troops who came out fighting in the second half, Harleston soon took the lead when Toby Price dispatched a flick before Simon Hipwell turned Lloyd again before dispatching his shot. Rees Leonard was again kept busy but kept his second half clean sheet intact for the half. Harleston added other goals through Sam and Chris Barber before Lloyd’s misery was complete when Andrew Bedwell fired home from a tight angle.
Preston 2 – Harleston 6
In the last game of the day Harleston faced a Preston side who had three points thus far from the weekend. Again Harleston maintained their running theme Sunday and started slowly allowing Preston to take an early lead through a break away goal. Preston’s lead did not last long as Toby Price coolly finished from the top of the circle after dribbling through 2 defenders. Harleston soon took the lead through Tristan Baynes before Sam Rowe extended their lead before the break.
Harleston started the second half strongly creating many chances to extend their lead but the team were unable to add to their advantage early on. Goals did come though in the form of Chris Barber, Mark Wheelhouse and Thomas Ridley who slotted home to open his account for the weekend. Preston did pull a goal back before the end of the game and more drama followed as Andrew Bedwell thought he had added to his goal tally only for the goal to be rightfully disallowed for a prior infringement.
The weekend left Harleston unbeaten and progressing to the second weekend in Bristol on the 18th and 19th January where they will face South qualifiers Wimbledon, Indian Gymkhana and West Herts and will again play Cheltenham and Sheffield Hallam. If the team finish in the top two they will be promoted to the National League Division 1 Championships.