Harleston Magpies 2 St Albans 1
NE14 Hockey East Men's LeaguePremier AHarleston Magpies 2 St Albans 1HARLESTON Magpies produced a fine display to take all three points in a tough encounter against St Albans at Clarence Park.
NE14 Hockey East Men's League
Harleston Magpies 2 St Albans 1
HARLESTON Magpies produced a fine display to take all three points in a tough encounter against St Albans at Clarence Park. Since their relegation from the National League St Albans have been Magpies closest challengers but this really was a must-win for St Albans as they started the game 11 points behind in the title race.
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The game started with real intensity with St Albans pressing the midfield and making it difficult for Harleston to play their normal fast paced passing game. There was an early scare for Magpies when influential midfielder Richard Gill went down under a heavy challenge but he recovered quickly and Magpies soon started to control the game.
The compressed midfield area left more space for Tom Sumner and Stuart Leite on the left and the right who both impressed with some fine attacking movement, and as the high ball pace around the back from Leigh Sitch and Richard Ling pulled St Albans out of position Magpies started to create chances.
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Andy Hipwell was unlucky not to open the scoring from a short corner, and fine attacking play from Neil Toulson and Jimmy Wheeler created a further opportunity for Hipwell but he found the St Albans keeper in fine form as Magpies pushed for the break through. Harleston were starting to look a real threat going forward and again, after a fine passing move, a chance fell for Tristain Baynes on his reverse but once more the St Albans keeper made a sharp save.
St Albans had periods of possession during the first half but they were unable to create any clear cut opportunities as Magpies defended each attack confidently, leaving the match evenly poised at half time 0-0.
The second half started in the same vein with Magpies the more creative team and continuing to push for the breakthrough. Harleston continued to find the St Albans' keeper in top form as he thwarted further opportunities for Wheeler and Hipwell. However it was quick thinking from Gill, who found Toulson in space down the right from a quickly taken free-hit that created the opening goal, combining with Hipwell to provide Baynes with an opportunity that he finished with a trademark reverse strike to finish a fine move.
St Albans had offered little going forward and keeper Richard Harms had been untested, but they were awarded a short corner and a fine routine left Magpies with no chance. Despite controlling the majority of the game, Magpies found themselves level at 1-1.
After St Albans found the equaliser the game started to open up, providing James Fanger with more opportunity to exploit the right channel and it was another open-play goal that allowed Magpies to regain the lead. Richard Ling produced a fine cross-field ball from the right wing and further inter-play in the middle produced an opportunity for Hipwell who finished calmly.
St Albans won a further short corner in the closing stages but Magpies defended well and secured a 2-1 victory, a fine performance that leaves them in a strong position with a 100 per cent record after 13 games.