Harleston Magpies 1 Oxted 5

England Hockey League

Men’s Conference East

HARLESTON men’s first team welcomed bottom of the league Oxted to Weybread for their third game of the season. The away team’s league place was unlikely to reflect their standard following difficult fixtures against two of the leagues stronger sides. Magpies were hoping to turn around last weeks loss against Peterbrough but were again four players short including top goal scorer Ben Wright who had work commitments.

The first half did not start the way Magpies would have hoped with the away team settling very early and capitalising on some indecision by Magpies to take an early lead on three minutes.

The goal came from a driven ball into the circle which was guided passed goal keeper Mark Lloyd and then touched in by another deflection from an attacking player. Magpies tried to respond but were very unfortunate to concede a second goal only two minutes later when a clearly lifted ball entered the home circle, striking a Magpies player before being struck into the goal by a grateful Oxted forward.

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Despite legitimate complaints the umpire waved away protests and the goal was given. The early goals seemed to unsettle Magpies and very shortly it was 3-0 to the away side when captain Mark Wheelhouse’s last ditch tackle on the baseline was judged as a foul and a penalty stroke was awarded.

The decision was again disputed but the pain was further added to when Wheelhouse was dispatched to the sin bin with a yellow card. The flick was well dispatched and the away side were now in the ascendance, driving forward and causing Magpies problems time after time. A very slick counter attack down the left hand side saw the Magpies players dive in and allow a crisply struck cross, which was expertly directed into the net by the Oxted forward at the near post.

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The difficult first half was not over yet for Magpies as another cross in the home circle was again touched home by an Oxted forward perfectly positioned at the back post leaving the score 0-5 at the break.

The Magpies coaching staff had their work cut out and demanded calmness, discipline, composure and hard work to show the watching crowd that the home side could make a game of it.

The team responded well and maintained much better possession and started to pressure the Oxted defence into mistakes. The team created good chances and started to show much more of the form that had won them their first home game.

The senior players we starting to step it up and after a driving run from the back David Ling was felled and Oxted’s best player was sent to the bin for a 10 minute rest. With an extra man Magpies continued to press on and were rewarded when new forward Sebastian Knights knocked in a deflected shot off a penalty corner to open his account for Harleston.

Despite this the home side were unable to add any further goals and despite a much improved second half the away side cruised to a disciplined away win lifting them above Magpies on goal difference.

The loss will leave Magpies with things to consider as they prepare for a tough trip to ex premier league side Canterbury on Saturday (8) but the coach and manager will be pleased by the second half response following a first half they will want to forget.

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