Harleston Magpies, sponsored by Dynamic Club Shops, welcomed West Herts to The Nest on a blistering cold Saturday. A crucial game in the race for top 4 with Magpies looking to get back to winning ways after their defeat last week and West Herts wanting to apply pressure from below.
Despite the cold, an impressive crowd accumulated and they were in for a fantastic display of hockey. From the start, Magpies showed the intensity and creativity they lacked in the 1-0 loss over Wapping. With the West Herts players still warming up, the team took a very early 1-0 through Dave ‘UEA Dave’ Gilbert. A beautiful turn and top D strike to finish his dry spell. Magpies continued to look dangerous with connections from the Whiteman brothers on the right side. True reflections of the importance of fitness, nutrition and hard-work. Continued pressure paid off as the team won and converted a beautifully worked short corner, Tom Ridley the scorer. Individual battles soon emerged as West Herts became frustrated. Despite some good opportunities and solid work from ever consistent rampaging full back Leigh Sitch, the team entered half-time 2-0 up.
There was plenty of work to be done. Magpies had been 2-0 up only to draw 2-2 earlier on in the year. Nonetheless, the Magpies players continued to play smart hockey, retaining possession and working hard off the ball. Another Harleston short corner was won, this time by some smart 3D skill from Raunaq Rai. After an initial save Tom Ridley was able to put in the rebound to put Harleston 3-0 up. More foul play crept into the game from West Herts which sent Ollie Whiteman flying on the baseline. Unimpressed, the umpire was reluctant to award a short corner. As Magpies continued to press some cracks began to develop in our press. West Herts broke past two Harleston players, crashing a ball into the D which was not dealt with and fell to a West Herts attacker, 3-1. However, in a matter of minutes Simon Hipwell smashed the 4th goal in from, arguably, the top of the D. The crowd enjoyed seeing a Harleston veteran score and began chanting ‘He’s one of our own’. The tie was wrapped up with a selfless act from James Gray who set up Dave Gilbert expertly using the post from outside the D. Post-match James later said he was glad that Dave could score some goals today, it will do his confidence wonders. West Herts won and converted a short corner in the last 3 minutes. The game finished 5-2 to Harleston Magpies.
Magpies head into the Christmas break sitting 2nd, behind Wapping and ahead of St Albans. Kevin Ridley described the performance as superb and there was rumours he even shed a tear of joy.