St Albans 1 Harleston Magpies 4

English Hockey League

Men’s Conference East

MAGPIES went into the game against their most local rivals St Albans on the back of a good performance but ultimately disappointing home defeat the previous week against Wimbledon. Pete Bale was welcomed back into the squad after missing the start of the season through work commitments. The opposition are new boys to the league have gained an early reputation for being determined and well organised without having any star names in their line-up. Magpies knew that they would have to be near their best to take the points back to Norfolk.

Magpies conceded a short corner in the first minute of the match but dealt with it well, after which the majority of the first half passed without significant goal-mouth action. St Albans’ deep defence kept Magpies’ attacking opportunities to a minimum but also contributed to their own offensive play becoming largely limited to aerial balls into non-threatening wide areas of the pitch. Duncan Graves will be disappointed not to have opened the scoring on 30 minutes when with only the keeper to beat the ball struck his foot, however the deadlock was broken soon afterwards by Magpies forward Andy Hipwell on the stroke of half-time after St Albans captain Cooper was robbed of possession in midfield and Hipwell smartly slotted home from the top of the D.

St Albans started brightly in the second half and their pressure told on 45 minutes when Glen Webster skilfully found space in midfield and Stephen Friend expertly deflected in the resulting cross. Magpies could have easily found themselves behind in a frantic five minute spell during which St Albans hit the post and keeper Harms made a sharp low save to keep the scores level. After Magpies composed themselves, they were denied themselves by the woodwork via a brave defender on the line from a short-corner on 55 minutes.

In league where there appears to be little to choose between most sides, small lapses in concentration or discipline can decide games, and so it proved to be when on 60 minutes St Albans had a player sent-off for hitting the ball away at a Magpies free hit. This was quickly followed by two further St Albans yellow cards, one for dissent and the other for a stick-tackle on Andy Hipwell. The latter led to a penalty stroke to Magpies.

In the previous week’s game Tristan Baynes had his stroke in the last few minutes of the game well saved by the Wimbledon keeper, however he had no hesitation in stepping up again and slotted home nervelessly to give Magpies the lead. Magpies took full advantage of their opposition being reduced to eight men and when Baynes capped a man-of-the-match performance by scoring again after being fed by Toby Tibbenham with only five minutes left on the clock the points were secure. Andy Hipwell rounded things off just before full time by firing in from close range after more tenacious work by Tibbenham.

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The three-goal winning margin was flattering to Magpies in a game that for so long could have gone either way. St Albans will no doubt prove to be a stiff test for most opposition teams this season, particularly at home, however Magpies had stuck to their game-plan to the letter and in the end their better discipline probably won them the points.

Magpies have no game next weekend before playing Old Loughtonians at Weybread on Sunday November 7 at 2.15pm.

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