Perfect start to year for Harpenden after thrilling win over Wapping

Mark Hoefield scored twice as Harpenden beat Wapping on day one of the new season. Picture: KARYN HA

Mark Hoefield scored twice as Harpenden beat Wapping on day one of the new season. Picture: KARYN HADDON - Credit: Archant

Harpenden had to come from behind to do it but they opened up their new East Hockey League season in style with a thrilling 4-3 win over Wapping.

It was the east London club's fourth team but they are still expected to be one of the sides to beat in Division Two North, a consequence of their first team's promotion to the national leagues.

But the Woollams-based club have ambitions of challenging for titles and promotion too and this will have been the perfect way to build the confidence.

The summer has been one of slight rebuilding with the retirement of last year's vice captain Dave Falk and the moves of defender Ali Barrett and forward Jon Brayshaw to Letchworth and Blueharts respectively.

Coach David Thomas has also revamped the tactics on the pitch and although the squad are still getting used to the intricacies, there is no doubting the new system clearly had an impact on the result.

The match had started well enough and Reece Baker-Kiff showed he had lost little of his Midas touch in front of goal as he fired in from long-range to put Harpenden ahead.

The lead was soon wiped out as Wapping rattled in two penalty corners despite the best efforts of Andy King in the home goal.

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But the Woollams-based club made sure they went in at the break level thanks to fine approach play from Alex Weaver, making his competitive debut for the first-team, and a good finish from the well-positioned Mark Hoefield at the back post.

The second-half had barely begun though when Wapping went back in front, another penalty corner proving Harpenden's undoing with the drag flick beating King and Todd Baines on the post.

A green card to Wapping and numerical advantage to Harpenden was gleefully accepted, James Singer finding Callum West, another of Harpenden's talented youngsters, and he showed a brilliant combination of skill, composure and confidence to beat a defender, enter the circle and quickly fire off a rasping shot into the far corner.

And with the upper hand well and truly with the home side, Hoefield made it a great day by bagging his second following a cut-back by Harry Kneale.

Next up for Harpenden is a short away trip to Hitchin to take on Blueharts.