Harleston Magpies Sponsored by Dynamic Club Shop flew from the nest this week to take on St Albans. The two teams joint second with only 1 draw and 1 loss. The boys in white were keen to take this winning streak further 8/8 is never enough for a team like Magpies. After one of our best warmups for the season we were ready to revenge last years disappointment.
The game started with a high press from Magpies giving the opposition very few options. St Albans only had 2 half chances inside the first half thanks to some excellent defending from Leigh Sitch, Andrew Bedwell, Oli Whiteman, Richard Larkin and Tom Sumner. It was clear that our defence were more than up to the challenge with every 50/50 ball ending on a white stick. 20 minutes into the game the deadlock was broken. A wonderful strike from the top of the D from Dave Gilbert saw the keeper make a save which fell comfortablly for James Gray to slot the ball home.
Vocal instructions from midfield were clear that the next 2 minutes would be vital. We were determined not to have another Bedford performance and let them score directly from push back. These 2 minutes were infact vital as Tim Whiteman, Elliot Marsh and Tom Ridley had some lovely interlink play before finding Dave Gilbert out on the right. Some composed play allowed Dave Gilbert to carry the ball down the base line and pick out an inch perfect pass to James Gray on the P spot who slotted the ball home once again from close range. 2-0 with 2 goals in 2 minutes! A card for a poor tackle saw Tim sent off late into the first half but the Harleston stood strong. 2-0 the score at half time.
We knew that 2-0 was always going to be tough to defend and ideally would like another goal. Raunaq Rai won a short corner by drawing a bad tackle outside the circle after some scintillating stick skills. A well worked corner thumped into the back board via Thomas Ridley.
Shortly after this Ben Gowing received an unlucky card and was off for 2 minutes. St Albans won a easy short corner as the ball found a foot inside the D. This however was saved will by John Livings in goal and with Harleston back up to 11 we began to look dangerous.
Simon Hipwell making some excellent leads up front assisted by the never ending legs of Pete Bale were unlucky not to increase the 3-0 lead further. Another loose tackle meant that Tim Whiteman was to receive a green and have 2 minutes on the bench. This time the player down was costly as St Albans overloaded the D and found a free player down the left to score past the onrushing John Livings in goal. 3-1. Just like Magpies, St Albans pressed again and inside 2 minutes had a second goal, this time down the right. A fabulous save by John Livings saw the ball roll wide straight to an attacker who lifted the ball from a tight angle into the back of the goal.
3-2 the score with 20 mins left to play. With Magpies back up to 11 Raunaq Rai found some space into the D but unfortunately reversed the ball high over the fence and into the car park. More and more pressure put on from St Albans saw Magpies sag deeper and deeper into their half. Pete Bale and Dave Gilbert determined to not let this happen stepped out and pressed high encouraging the midfield to do the same. With 2 minutes left on the clock nerves began to show and Ben Gowing was sent off with a yellow this time. The drama was not over with a short corner awarded to St Albans.
This was it the full time whistle had gone. Magpies had clenched 1 point away from home but could they keep the ball out and make in 9/9 wins! The ball was injected and James Gray ran a superb line getting his body on the line. The drag flick fired hard into the right foot. The Albans players took a reverse stick shot that found the back of the net however the whistle had already gone for a re award of the short corner. The second short corner saw the ball again charged down by James Gray who again wore the ball on the right foot. This time advantage was given and St Albans shot again but this time the ball deflected high from John Livings and a short corner was blown, again the ball ended up in the net so the Albans players were frustrated. The third short saw the flicker forced to fire the ball down the middle of the goal for John Livings to save and like lightning Leigh Sitch and Elliot Marsh bravely put their bodies on the line to get the rebound clear and the ball was out of the D. Magpies heard a whistle and looked up ready to celebrate, however it was yet another short corner. On their 4th attempt the front runner James Gray ran the same line as before not allowing the flicker to choose his favoured right hand side of the keeper and this time forced him to shoot low to John Living’s left. Andrew Bedwell on the left post quickly judged the ball was going wide however the deflecter was getting ever closer. But not close enough. The ball rolled harmlessly off the back line and we had done it!
Magpies had won 9 on the bounce and secured 2nd place on the table just 2 points below next weeks opposition Wapping.