Mens 1st Team v Bedford W 5-4
Harleston, sponsored by Dynamic Club Shop, welcomed Bedford to Weybread on a sunny autumnal afternoon, hoping to continue their fine five-match winning streak. Harleston started extremely brightly, putting immense pressure on the Bedford back line and winning ball in midfield. Playing at this tempo wasn’t easy and the Harleston players also had to contend with a early afternoon downpour which made for slippery conditions. The Harleston heat eventually told and Magpies went 1-0 up after Tom Ridley played in Simon Hipwell on the edge of the circle to slot calmly passed the sliding keeper. Proceeding the goal however, Harleston succumbed to a mental slip and within 10 minutes found themselves 2-1 down. Impressive 1v1 eliminating skills from Bedford combined with lackluster defending handed the opposition the upper hand. Magpies regained composure before half-time and scored an equaliser with a lifted delivery skidding over Bedford sticks to find Pete Bale at the back-post. As the players regrouped on the halfway line they were astounded to see the decision overturned as the ball was deemed dangerous high. A slippery decision indeed. Harleston continued regardless and after more fine work from Tom Ridley who found Dynamic centre back Leigh Sitch, the full
back smashed the ball into the circle and regained parity through UEA Dave Gilbert slotting in at the far post. This match however had more turns than the Pulham bends and just when the boys could consider going ahead again, Bedford countered once more and finished close-in to lead 3-2 at the break.
The second half began with the same furious intensity, with both sides determined to finish as victors. It was Harleston however who wrestled control and after a fine 15 minutes levelled through first Leigh Sitch and then Andrew Bedwell at short corners. Two of the unlikeliest of heroes dragging Harleston ahead. With fifteen minutes to go it was 4-3 Harleston! The only question was, would they let the lead slip? Thankfully not, as captain Tom Ridley (once again at the heart of proceedings) won a corner attacking from high on the right. A crucial corner, Harleston had to get it right. The injection however was streaky and it looked like a corner fail. Thankfully however Leigh Sitch collected it and Tim Whiteman slipped past first the runner and then the sliding keeper to release a shot that skidded slippery over the line. Despite sky high emotions, a calm celebration denoted the concentration required for the final 10 minutes. Bedford pushed extremely hard but Harleston dug in displaying superb work-rate from James Gray, Simon Hipwell and Jack Hobbs to relieve endless pressure. With 2 minutes to go, Bedford however found their captain sliding in at the back post to make it 5-4! Tension was at Henman-esq levels! The crowd roared, willing the boys on. Finally, finally, it came and Harleston held on for a memorable victory. It was a hard game but with victory, Halreston moved to within two points of the summit and extended their winning run to six games – the first time for 4 years.
Manager Kevin Ridley commented afterwards, “that was a battle but the desire and commitment from all the boys was tremendous. The spirit shown from the players and the crowd made it a memorable Harleston occasion.”