Indian Gymkhana 3 Harleston 5

England Hockey League

Men’s Conference East

MAGPIES through the mist and fog to West London under the Heathrow flight path to play Indian Gymkhana. The last few weeks have been difficult for Magpies with good performances not being rewarded by any points on the board. Indian Gym have had a mixed first half of the season with some good wins but also some heavy defeats. Magpies prepared well for the match with an overnight stay but were limited to a 14 man squad due to injury which included top scorer Ben Wright. Magpies gave a National League debut to 17 year old James Baker, son of club legend Stuart.

Magpies started the game well and the new away pitch allowed for some flowing moves. During a break into the circle from the right hand side, key man Richard Gill seized on a bouncing ball to smash in a goal past a flailing keeper to give the away side a deserved lead.

Unfortunately this lead did not last long as a resurgent Gym drove down the other end and secured a penalty corner that was expertly fired home by Jagdeep Gill (no relation). In the past this may have unsettled Magpies but they reasserted their control and were generally very patient in their build up. On 26 minutes it was the turn of another experienced head to put Magpies ahead, when Tristan Baynes delivered a beautiful back hand strike low into the bottom corner from the top of the circle.

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This was swiftly followed up by a successful penalty corner strike from England junior Elliot Smith, who had taken over flicking duties from the injured Wright. The half closed with Magpies 3-1 up but very aware that one good half of hockey has not been enough recently and Gym would always be a threat after the break.

As expected Gym started the half pressing much higher up the pitch and limiting Magpies time at the back. This however left holes in their already shaky defence and Magpies were able to secure a second penalty corner, which was again dispatched into the net by the promising Smith. Many sides would have thrown in the towel at this point but the Sikh based side do not have this in their nature and were soon bombarding the Magpies back line and using their high skill levels to generate fouls in and around the circle.

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Despite good effort across the pitch Magpies were guilty of sitting back and inviting pressure and soon it told when a free man was left back post for an easy tap in to make it 4-2. Now in the assurgence the home side pressed on and soon had a man advantage when David Ling missed a tackle in the circle but was judged to have shown intent to foul and was given a 10 minutes sin bin. The home side took this opportunity and from some intricate passing in the circle secured their third goal from close range.

With the teams only one goal apart the match became an end to end contest with the result difficult to predict. Magpies were pressing and creating lots of chances. They will be frustrated that often their final decision-making in the circle let them down at key moments. At the other end Gym also had their fair share of chances but could not find their way past the Magpies rear guard. With four minutes left following a failed Gym attack, man of the match Simon Hipwell combined well with Baynes to give Zeb Knights a tap in at the back post which secured all 3 points leaving the final score as 5-3.

Magpies have played better but got nothing from games this half of the season so were relieved and elated to have collected three points from this difficult away fixture. The win puts them only two points behind their nearest rivals and will inject confidence when they host Peterborough next week in what promises to be another exciting encounter.

Goals - Richard Gill, Tristan Baynes, Eliot Smith x 2, Sebastian Knights Men of the Match - Simon Hipwell, Richard Gill and Elliot Smith.

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