Mens 1st Team v Norwich City W 3-1
Harleston Magpies, sponsored by Dynamic Sports, welcomed local rivals Norwich City to the Nest on a day of celebration for the club. The ladies team had secured a impressive 4-2 win over Sevenoaks to secure their own promotion and whilst the men’s team had achieved the same feat the week before they still wanted to put on a show for the expectant crowd. Moreover the team wanted to bounce back from defeat to Bedford and step closer to securing 2nd spot in the table.
Despite not being able to fully capitalise on their possession with some uncharacteristically sloppy passing Magpies looked to get on the front foot and pressure the Norwich side into mistakes. This pressure told early and Magpies were awarded a penalty corner. Harleston were unable to convert however a misplaced pass from the resultant Norwich free hit went straight to Jimmy Grey who immediately fired the ball back into the circle. Fortunately the magpies captain, Thomas Ridley, was still lurking in the D and cooly deflected the ball past the onrushing keeper.
Magpies looked to kick on from this early goal but the team just could not get any cohesion. Mis-traps and mis-passes were mounting up and any the home team were more and more frustrated by their own substandard play. Eventually one such mistake proved crucial and a mistrap in midfield by Timmy Whiteman was pounced upon by the Norwich forward. Despite what looked like a ‘robust’ tackle on the player coach the umpires let the play continue and with the defence out of position the Norwich forwards combined to slot the ball past Chris Leek in goal.
Magpies knew a response was needed and that if their usual free flowing hockey could not be found they would have to battle through and get the win with guts and determination. Magpies stepped up the pressure and started to create more chances. A number of short corners were won and one such chance fell to injector Ben Gowing. The local lad, normally so prolific, had a heavy first touch which fortunately lured the Norwich defender into a clumsy challenge on the goalline for which the home team were awarded a penalty stroke. Dave Gilbert calmly slotted the ball home to put Magpies back in front.
At half time Whiteman had some stern words and the whole squad agreed that the quality had to upped in the second half. Fortunately the Harleston team started to gain more control on the game. The back four started finding their midfielders with increasing regularity and the link up play between the lines produced some much more fluid hockey. The home team were looking more and more comfortable on the ball and started to demonstrate the controlled passing game that has frustrated so many visiting teams this season. Unfortunately for the home team the one aspect of the teams performance that they could not quite get up to par was their finishing. Despite the possession and territory Magpies too often spurned good chances in front of goal or failed to turn good positions into goal scoring chances.
Eventually however some more excellent pressure on the Norwich defence saw Magpies win the ball high up the pitch. The ball fell to Dave Gilbert who shifted the ball round the advancing goalie and cooly slotted into the empty net. No less than the home team deserved.
Magpies continued to control the pace and tempo of the game but were unable to add to their goal tally for the day running out 3-1 winners. Whilst perhaps the team would have wanted a bigger win in front of an impressive crowd they team know they underperformed in the first half but showed the character, as they have so often this season, to bounce back with a impressive second half performance. A win next week against bottom of the table Saffron Walden will secure 2nd place in the league before the big visit of St Albans on the last day of the season.