Harleston Magpies, sponsored by Dynamic Club Shops, travelled to London for the second successive week seeking their 10th victory in a row. A strong squad including many from the golden generation were confident that their brand of hockey, fitness and desire would be enough to knock Wapping off top spot in Prem A.
Coach Tim Whiteman asked for a fast start and put to bed any of the rumours that a point would be a good result. It was clear that Wapping wanted to play the ball long, with their captain bypassing the harleston midfield with disguised passes and an aerial threat but the men in black and white coped well and in return looked to get on the ball with short passing and good interplay. Pete Bale looked to orchestrate the play, bringing the likes of Tom Ridley into the game in dangerous areas. With 15 minutes on the clock, Manager Kevin Ridley was left scratching his head when Wapping opened the scoring through an uncharacteristic mistake from the defensive unit.
If truth be told now was the time for a mentally strong 15 men to dig deep, put pressure on the ball and control the tempo. Strong challenges were exchanged in all areas of the pitch and words said to both umpires, finally reducing Wapping to 10 men. From this point Magpies were marginally the better side but deserved to be losing at half time after too much running into flat sticks all over the pitch and not enough meaningful play in the opposition 25.
The message was simple from senior players, believe and execute the game plan. It was important to get back to basics. Good defensive pressing nullified Wapping attacks but with the ball magpies still struggled to create meaningful chances. 3 second half corners passed without the net bulging. Time was passing and it was beginning to look unlikely that the deficit would be overturned. Harleston continued to rotate their bench and dictated the game with their patterns but to no avail.
Wapping roared at the final whistle recognising a big scalp over promotion rivals. Even man of the match Simon Hipwell couldn’t add to his growing goal tally for the season.
For magpies this was a reality check, next week Harleston host West Herts, where they will undoubtably bounce back and head into the Christmas period on a high.