Harleston Magpies Men’s indoor team, sponsored by Durrants, travelled to St Albans at the weekend to take part in the National Conference Division 2 North Championship. The weekend comprised of 4 games following Preston’s withdrawal. Harleston knew that a top 3 finish would see them qualify for a place in the second weekend of the National Division 2 Championship.
Action photos courtesy of Pat Leate.
In their first game of the weekend Harleston came up against a strong St Albans side who had comprehensively beaten Harleston in the East tournament 2 weeks earlier. Harleston started slowly and had to withstand a lot of St Albans pressure. However, the hard work from the Harleston team made sure that John Livings clean sheet remained intact. Harleston took the lead just before half time and managed to hang onto this advantage with 15 minutes remaining. St Albans eventually making their pressure pay converting one of their corners before taking the lead with two quick goals. With the score at 3-1 Harleston pulled their keeper, the extra player allowing Leigh Sitch to rampage up the pitch only to be fouled just before the attacking circle. Harleston thought they had pulled a goal back with a minute to play but the goal was ruled out for a lifted ball.
In their next game Harleston took on Lichfield. Harleston started much better this game as their back two were able to ping passes through the Lichfield forward line allowing the forward line of Chris Barber, Toby Price, Richard Larkin, Tom Ridley, Simon Hipwell and Ben Wright to create many chances. The goals were slow to roll in but soon Harleston found their goal scoring shoes and the goals started to flow. The pick of the bunch being a well worked short corner finished by Louis Totton and a quick flowing free hit between Simon Hipwell and Richard Larkin. The final score 10-2 to Harleston.
On the Sunday morning Harleston faced Barford Tigers. Harleston started well and so found themselves a goal up before Barford pulled a goal back against the run of play. The equalising goal spurred Harleston on, Carl Sitch getting ahead down the right creating many opportunities. The score at half time being 3-1 to Harleston. 5 minutes into the second half John Livings was adjudged to have fouled a Barford forward resulting in a yellow card for the keeper and a penalty stroke. Simon Hipwell bravely put on the goalkeeper helmet but couldn’t quite react to the power of the stroke.
Despite being a player down Harleston extended their lead through a quick counter attack goal finished by Chris Barber. With Harleston back to their full complement they turned on the style and soon rolled in a couple of quick goals. Toby Price scored an excellent 1-2 off the boards before beating the keeper from a tight angle. Another goal being goal of the tournament when Stuart Leate played a lovely give and go bounce pass before receiving the ball back. Despite being under pressure the twinkle toed midfielder turned three players before releasing Ben Wright who exquisitely lobbed the advancing Barford goalkeeper. For video evidence please see Kevin Ridley.
With this win Harleston were guaranteed qualification with one game remaining. In their last game Harleston faced old foes Bournville. For the first time Harleston found themselves a goal down. This did not alarm Harleston as they continued to work on their principles from all weekend. This allowed Harleston to get back into the game and they soon found themselves 3-1 up. The game ebbed and flowed but no more goals were added until there was a minute left on the clock as Bournville scored a penalty corner. With time ticking away Harleston were reduced to 5 players conceding another penalty corner. With the final hooter sounding Harleston knew they had to defend the corner to gain another 3 points. At the first corner Bournville tried an injector deflection which Leigh Sitch managed to get across to however the ball hit his body. With the resulting corner Richard Larkin managed to bravely block the ball at the top of the circle to seal the win for Harleston.
With 3 wins Harleston finished second in their table as a result Harleston will now travel to Bristol on the 23rd and 24th January along with Bournville and St Albans to face the three qualifiers from the National Division 2 Championship South League.
Squad – John Livings (GK), Leigh Sitch (C), Simon Hipwell, Louis Totton, Carl Sitch, Stuart Leate, Chris Barber, Tom Ridley, Richard Larkin, Ben Wright, Toby Price, Katrina Sitch (Manager) and Kevin Ridley (Videographer).
The squad would like to thank all of those who came to support the team over the weekend.