Harleston Magpies’ hockey reports

Magpies Ladies' first team came away delighted with two wins and all six points this weekend as the National League outdoor season got under way.

Magpies knew that they were heading into a tough weekend of fixtures, playing Horsham who were six points ahead of them on the Saturday and facing the undefeated league leaders, Surbiton away on the Sunday.

Harleston Magpies Ladies 2, Horsham 1

Magpies dominated the whole of the first half and were rarely troubled in defence. Pressure from the Magpies forwards and midfield forced Horsham to make mistakes and enabled Magpies to have several chances in front of goal.

Magpies were eventually rewarded with a goal from a short corner strike by Louisa Greenacre just before half-time.

Horsham came out after half time with an increased momentum and started to look a little more dangerous on the break. However, Magpies workrate from forwards through to defence meant that Horsham rarely got into the circle.

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Sarah Brook scored her first National League goal from a well worked penalty corner from Artemis Clark after 44 minutes.

Magpies were looking comfortable leading at 2-0, however they were in for a nerve wrackling last few minutes after Horsham broke away and converted a penalty corner with eight minutes before then end. Magpies dug deep and held on for a thoroughly deserved three points.

Harleston Magpies Ladies 2, Surbiton 1

Magpies started the Surbiton game with the continued commitment and confidence that they finished with on the previous day.

Emma Lee-Smith and Emily Wilford were available to play and rejoined the team for the Sunday, both Lee-Smith and Wilford went on to score one a piece as Magpies picked up a well deserved three points against the league leaders.

The game started at a very quick tempo, but Magpies put together another all round excellent team performance as they constantly hassled the league leaders and forced mistakes from the start.

Emma Lee-Smith caused trouble for the Surbiton defence throughout the first half and was only narrowly denied from scoring by a superb save from the Surbiton keeper.

Charlotte Harrison and Artemis Clark both had excellent games down the right and left flanks which released the forwards for several attacking opportunities. Magpies defence of Louisa Greenace, Katrina Warnes and Lucy Miller marked tightly all game and rarely allowed Surbiton in on goal.

Magpies went 1-0 into half-time as Emma Lee-Smith was rewarded with a goal after her reverse stick shot beat the keeper from the top of the circle. Surbiton came out after half-time and hit Magpies with a couple of attempts into the circle, however Magpies broke quickly with a counter attack and Verity Blyth put Emily Wilford through for a one on one with the keeper who calmly converted after several minutes into the second half.

Magpies maintained their work rate and closed down the Surbiton players as soon as they had the ball. Only a rare defensive error allowed Surbiton back into the game after 45 minutes. Magpies regrouped and continued to battle hard throughout the remaining 20 minutes of the game to produce a gritty performance, including several superb saves from Charlotte Lee-Smith in goal to hold on to their deserved victory.

The two wins put Magpies on 14 points — only one point off sixth place Old Loughtonians, who they are facing away from home next Saturday, and five points clear from eighth-placed St Albans.

Magpies Men returned pointless from their trip to Oxted, losing 2-0. A much below strength side fought hard against a side whose defence looked frail, however Magpies finishing was poor and the long trip home focused on what might have been.

Magpies wait on the fitness of Andy Hipwell, Carl Sitch and Ben Wright who could all make it for the vital visit of Indian Gymkhana on Sunday (push back 2.15pm). Pete Bale, in fine form against Holcombe, returns following unavailability through work commitments. Dan Legg keeps his place in the squad after an encouraging league debut at Oxted.

Magpies opponents have built up a fine record at home but the travel to Weybread together with the contrast in pitch conditions to their home ground will act in Magpies favour.

With Sevenoaks' revival following bedding down of their recent signings this game becomes of huge importance to Magpies who need to pick up further points to ensure they are not sucked in to a relegation battle.

The league table is very tight with most sides capable of beating their opponents on their day. With a fully fit squad and home advantage Magpies should pick up points however a number of players will need to improve on last weekend's performance if this is to become a reality.

Oxted Men 2, Harleston Magpies Men 0

Harleston Magpies travelled down to Oxted with a changed squad due to injury and work commitments. They were however still in confident of being able to get a result against a side below them in the league.

Oxted started brightly carrying an attacking threat to the Harleston defence as they looked to transfer the ball quickly from back to front with long passes. Harleston sloppy play cost them as Oxted broke into Dee down their right before the forward Neil Turk squared the ball only to deflect past the helpless Richard Harms off the Magpies defender's foot.

As the half went on Harleston took more and more control of the game.

Oxted went down to 10 men after receiving a yellow card. The chances came for Magpies through both open play from well worked moves down the Harleston right and a number of short corner opportunities.

The Oxted goalkeeper made good saves first down to his right as well as with his hands. Oxted did still carry a threat going forward but mainly feeding from Harleston errors and breaking forward with pace.

Oxted survived to half-time with their lead intact at 1-0.

The pattern of the game was now set as Harleston continued to pressure Oxted creating yet more chances after the break. Again the chances came in both open play and short corner form. Oxted did still carry there attacking threat and had one or two short corner chances of their own as the game flowed.

Again Harleston had a hand in their own downfall as they gave away cheap possession for Oxted to break away and score making it 2-0 on 58 minutes through Jonathan Wilkes-Green.

Harleston still continued to forge chances as they tried to fight back throwing men forward but lacked the finishing touch. This did however leave them open at the back to the counter attack.

Harleston received a yellow card making the task harder as Oxted broke quickly. Then Oxted received their second yellow of the game after foul play. This was then followed by another yellow for Harleston after a collision.

Overall Harleston will feel they had the greater of the chances but Oxted proved clinical in taking theirs resulting in a 2-0 away defeat for Harleston Magpies.

Harleston Magpies Ladies II 2, Cambridge City II 0

After their well-earned draw last week against top-of-the-league Wisbech, Magpies this week faced Cambridge City a team who occupy the other end of the table. With this huge contrast of games, Magpies were confident they could gain a victory after their outstanding performance the week before.

Magpies started well maintaining possession for the majority of the first half with strong defensive skills from Amy Brook, Micayla Tootill, Melissa Hunter and Siobhan Wooltorton stopping any Cambridge threats from the odd break. Magpies were unlucky not to score in the first half despite having a number of chances, and the teams went into half time equal at 0-0.

The second half brought Magpies more luck and they earned themselves many short corners, however, after some good defending from Cambridge City and some good saves from ex-Magpie Vanessa Brown in goal, Magpies remained goalless.

This was until a great call from coach Jason Harness saw Magpies change their short corner routine and a brilliant cross from Lauren Mickleburgh, was tapped in behind the keeper by Keira Booty to give Magpies a 1-0 lead.

Shortly after, Lauren Barber scored the second goal of the game from her great positioning in the circle. Cambridge City attempted to fight back hard and managed a break with five minutes to go.

This gave goalkeeper Flora Marfleet her first real action of the game. An unlucky moment saw the ball fall to the Cambridge centre forward, and horror struck as Magpies saw the ball in the back of their net. Fate however was on Magpies side as the goal was quickly disallowed, the Cambridge player having slotted the ball home with her thigh.

This near miss motivated Magpies to push through to the end as they realised what Cambridge City could be capable of. It was a well fought game from both teams and Magpies got a well deserved victory after a fantastic team effort.

Congratulations go to Lauren Barber and Krystal Bishop for sharing the player-of-the-match award this week.

Broadland II 0, Magpies Ladies IV 1

After their 10th win of the season last week, Magpies were looking to maintain their points advantage at the top of Division One, but knew they faced a hard task away from home against Broadland.

Magpies started well, keeping possession and gaining ground into the Broadland D, and it was only the home side's keeper who kept them in it in the early stages, making some quality saves to deny Magpies a goal.

Broadland were dangerous on the break, playing a counter-attacking game for most of the half, whilst Magpies continued to search for the opener. And it came towards the end of the half, when Karen Absolon made a good run down the right flank, brought the ball into the D and slipped it cooly past the keeper to give the away side the lead.

The second half saw the play more evenly matched, with Broadland threatening an equaliser, but Magpies battled hard to keep their lead. The away side were solid at the back, with Claire Snelling, Bella Hall, Sarah Legg, Katie Mound and Megg Eglington in control in the Magpies defence, and with Kristina Erith in goal nothing was going to get past and deny Magpies their 11th win of the season.

It was a hard-fought match and Magpies got their deserved victory, keeping them in control at the top of Division One. Credit this week must go to Karen Absolon for her brilliant performance on the right wing and her quality goal making the difference.