Harleston Magpies Men’s 1st team made the long journey to Bristol to compete in the National League Division 1 Championship following their promotion from the Division 2 league last season. The squad welcomed back Carl Sitch and also welcomed new indoor members Matt Collinge and James Meek, the latter nearly missing the first game due to a National Alarm issue. The squad went into the weekend buoyed with confidence after their win at the East indoor championship in December.
Harleston Magpies 3 – Loughborough Students 10
In the first game of the campaign harleston faced a strong Loughborough students team who were relegated from the Premier league in the previous season. The students started well, sitting back and inviting Harleston onto them before hitting them on the counter attack. This enabled the students to score two quick goals. Harleston were able to find their feet slowly and grew into the game and scored two quick goals through Andrew Bedwell before Chris Barber finished in exceptional style from the base line. The students continued to push and soon retook the lead before half time.
Harleston tried to push in the second half but looking for an equaliser left them exposed at the back when the ball was turned over. The students scored 6 more goals in the second half with Harleston only able to score one in reply through Toby Price.
Bourneville 3 – Harleston Magpies 6
Harleston faced Bourneville in their next game knowing that a win was vital. Harleston started a lot better than in their first game and soon took the lead through Chris Barber and they soon doubled their lead when Carl Sitch pounced on a loose ball in the circle. Bournville then pulled a goal back before Harleston extended their lead through James Meek. Despite leading with 5 minutes until half time Bournville capitalised on a couple of defensive lapses allowed Bournville to score two goals and go in at the break all square.
Harleston upped their game in the second half, moving the ball around well across the pitch and dragging the Bournville players out of position. They were able to score three unanswered goals thanks to Matt Collinge in goal. The goals coming from Chris Barber, Tristan Baynes and Simon Hipwell.
Harleston 5 – Southgate 7
In their first game on Sunday morning Harleston faced tough competition from a strong Southgate side. Harleston unusually for them on a Sunday morning started the game in great fashion. Harleston soon took the lead through Tristan Baynes converting coolly from the penalty spot before doubling it through Toby Price who’s powerful shot knocked the goal keeper off his feet before creeping in at the near post. This spurred Southgate into life and they soon scored two goals of their own before Harleston retook the lead when Richard Larkin finished with a deft touch in the circle.
Harleston knew that Southgate would come at them in the second half but quickly surrendered their lead when Southgate scored two quick unanswered goals. This lead to Harleston pushing for an equaliser which again left them exposed at the back which Southgate were able to capitalise on and scored three more goals before Harleston pulled two goals back near the death through Tristan Baynes with his second and Mark Wheelhouse.
Doncaster 4 – Harleston 2
In the final game of the weekend Harleston took on Doncaster in another must win game. The squad knew that if they played like they did against Southgate that a win would surely be on the cards. However Harleston started slowly and found themselves a goal down. Despite this Harleston continued to move the ball around and did create two good chances but were unable to convert on both occasions at the back post before having a stroke saved. Just before half time Carl Sitch pounced on an interception from Mark Wheelhouse to finish reverse stick in the circle.
Harleston knew that they had to step up their game in the second half to salvage a victory. However they soon found themselves 2 goals down following good play from Doncaster. Harleston were able to pull a goal back through Toby Price following some magical stick skills in the circle. Harleston were denied two late goals after having a goal ruled out after umpires thought it wasn’t touched by Price in the circle before Chris Barber rode two hideous tackle before finishing only to realise a corner had already been awarded before the ball hit the net. Harleston pushed further for the goals they craved but soon were left open at the back allowing Doncaster to score from a corner.
With three minutes left Harleston took goalkeeper Matt Collinge off and put on Leigh Sitch as kicking back. Despite the numerical advantage Harleston could not find the two goals needed to salvage a draw and had to defend two corners with Sitch bravely charging them down and James Meek clearing off the line.
Next weekend Harleston face Wimbledon, Old Loughts, Cannock and Brooklands MU knowing that realistically they need 6 points from the weekend to have a chance of survival.