Magpies welcomed St Albans to the nest in what promised to be the game of the season. Both teams vying for promotion, with St Albans top but Harleston just behind with an unbeaten record in the league. The game started at a fast pace, with both teams pressing high up the pitch. It was Harleston who had the majority of possession and nearly took the lead with a short corner on 15 minutes with Sam Patterson beating the keeper for pace but unfortunately also the outside of the post. Half-way through the game St Albans began to assert their authority and it was Harleston’s turn to absorb pressure but thankfully Harleston went into the first half with the scores even due to goal keeper John Living’s crucial save and Andrew Bedwell, Giles Flat and Leigh Sitch’s telling interceptions. Harleston started the second half extremely brightly and after a prolonged period of pressure broke the deadlock after patient build-up play against a deep lying defensive. It was captain Leigh Sitch who provided the pass into the circle and former Canadian international Elliott Marsh who deflected the ball into the goal. St Albans reacted strongly and immediately turned up the heat and within five minutes the scores were even after they converted a penalty corner to make it 1-1. As the half wore on Harleston once again began to dominate proceedings with Thomas Ridley and David Gilbert showing attacking intent that nearly earned the team a goal. With fifteen minutes to go Harleston had a barrage of short corners but despite their efforts they lacked the potency of their rivals and failed to score from 13 penalty corners over the course of the game. As the game entered the final moments there only looked like one winner with Harleston camped in the opposition half rallying attack after attack. Then, with 1 minute to go the unthinkable happened and a counter attack from St Albans resulted in only their third penalty corner of the game and crucially their second goal: this time from the right castle into the bottom left corner. With 20 seconds left Harleston mounted one more attack but it was all too late and the final whistle blew on not only the game but possibly Harleston’s East Premier League title ambitions.
A devastating way to end a game in which the Harleston guys showed so much heart and determination. Player coach Tim Whiteman commented after the game, “this was an absolutely gutting result and didn’t reflect the effort or quality the lads demonstrate today. It does however illustrate the importance of penalty corners in tight games of hockey and on reflection we didn’t execute our corners as well as our opposition. This performance does however demonstrate huge progress and myself and the club are extremely proud of their efforts today.”