Harleston Magpies 2 Wimbledon 3

England Hockey League

Men’s Conference East

MAGPIES returned to action after a weeks break for half term and welcomed Wimbledon to Weybread.

The two sides had contested two close matches last season and this promised to be the same. Like so many of the sides in this league Wimbledon have the riches to pay some players and included at least three ex-GB or England internationals. This fixture also marked the return to Magpies of ex junior James Osborne who captained the away side. Harleston’s performances have been improving week on week and they were hoping to produce a good display for a strong crowd with only captain Mark Wheelhouse absent from the squad.

Harleston started the game well and although Wimbledon were afforded time in their defence any advance forward was met with a solid wall of resistance from the home side.

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The ever present Richard Gill in the centre of the midfield was marshalling the game well and it was from his lofted aerial onto the stick of Sebastian Knights that drew a foul and a first short corner for the Magpies.

Lead goal scorer Ben Wright stepped up and dragged flicked the ball perfectly into the Wimbledon backboard for a 1-0 lead. Magpies continued to play some nice hockey but were forced to soak up more pressure from the talented visitors. Unfortunately Simon Hipwell who was fantastic in his effort and commitment all game blotted his excellent copy book with a yellow card for a deliberate foot leaving magpies one player short for 10 minutes.

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Wimbledon seized on this and the former Magpies man Osborne nipped in on a rebound to level things up. Despite returning to 11 Magpies were kept on the back foot and with the last hit of the first half and following a good save from keeper Reece Leonard and a block from David Ling, Wimbledon we able to smuggle home a second from a penalty corner to leave the scores 2-1 at the break.

The second half was a tale of dominance and chances for the home side who gave it their all and played some of their best national league hockey since their return to this level three years ago.

Unfortunately this came after another Wimbledon penalty corner success from ex-Olympian Ben Hawes just after the break leaving Magpies two behind. Magpies pressed on from this and when Gill delivered into the D, Wright was on hand to deflect passed a helpless keeper to narrow the gap to one. Following this Magpies created chance after chance and won short corners as the away side saw players green carded multiple times resulting in two minutes in bins but never yellow carded much to Magpies disappointment.

Unfortunately despite a great team effort, shown by the sharing of man of the match nominations, and much praise from two senior members of the opposition the equaliser never came and again Magpies were left with no points from a game they deserved more from.

It is another hard loss to take for the team but positives can be taken especially from the overall performance and also the return to the side of ex captain and top defender Leigh Sitch and senior player Tristan Baynes. These two who although limited in pitch time this week will be key figures over the rest of the season as Magpies strive to gain the points that their performances deserve.

Goals - Ben Wright x 2

Man of the Match - Elliot Smith and Peter Bale

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