Harps fall short as winner-takes-all spoils go to London
PUBLISHED: 08:20 29 March 2019
Harpenden’s hopes of promotion from East League Division Two South were cruelly dashed after a 3-2 defeat to their main rivals East London.
Twice the hosts led but a goal with 10 minutes to go saw the Lee Valley-based hockey club clinch the third and final promotion spot.
Things looked a look brighter at the start of the contest at Queenswood School with Harpenden taking the lead early on.
Having seized possession in defence, the ball was quickly worked upfield with Harry Kneale finding Rees Baker-Kiff on the edge of the circle.
And after he beat a couple of defenders, a reverse stick cross found Kneale again and he knocked it home at the back post.
The problems for Harpenden were at the other end with sloppy play and misplaced passes handing possession back to East London on a number of occasions.
The home side also found it difficult to move the ball forwards with an uncharacteristic void between defence and midfield.
That together with London pressure brought an equaliser shortly before the end of the first half with a strike from a penalty corner squirmed through.
But Harpenden came out well after half-time and were back in front within 10 minutes thanks to Mark Hoefield’s second of the season.
A second equaliser wasn’t looking in coming and like the first it brought a number of complaints from the home support.
The cross from the right seemed harmless enough but a wicked deflection flew off skipper Nick Kimberley’s stick and straight into the top corner of the goal leaving Andy King helpless.
However, the controversy came from doubts as to whether the initial ball in had been from inside or outside of the circle.
If it was the latter, then the goal shouldn’t have stood.
It did though and with 10 minutes to go the winner was found from a penalty corner.
Harpenden coach David Thomas took the decision to substitute goalkeeper King for an extra outfield player but although they pinned their opponents back, winning a few penalty corners, they couldn’t supply the killer touch to salvage something.
Harpenden still have one game to play, a trip to I-ES in Ipswich on Saturday, knowing a win will give them fourth place and crown what still has been a good season.