Hockey: Harpenden set up final day drama

Russell Timms squares past the diving goalie for Todd Bains to score

Russell Timms squares past the diving goalie for Todd Bains to score - Credit: Archant

Harpenden have given themselves a chance to stage a great escape and avoid relegation from Division One after taking the season down to the final day with a 4-1 win over Ely City.

Todd Bains hurdles the goalie but misses the target

Todd Bains hurdles the goalie but misses the target - Credit: Archant

Harpenden needed to show real maturity to overcome a determined Ely City, requiring patience and perseverance in equal measure. Despite going into half time with a one-goal advantage, Ely equalized with a stunning deflection, but Harpenden held their nerve and bagged three late goals to seal the points.

After the game skipper David Falk said, “We achieved our objective today – to stay alive for next week. We needed three points today and the lads showed their quality and delivered.

“Fair play to Ely they came here and put up a fight. We had a number of chances early on that we should have put away, which would have eased the tension a bit.

“As it happened, we were patient and when the opportunities came late on, we had enough to see it through, so looking forward to next week now.”

Harps made a bright start to the game, but found the Ely keeper in good form as he blocked a number of attempts. As the game progressed, Harpenden’s inability to covert pressure into goals started to show, but their persistence was finally rewarded just before half-time. Jimmy Evans, Russell Timms and Todd Baines linked up to set up Mike Bowler with a tap-in from five yards.

After the break Harpenden continued to press as they went in search of a second. As in the first half Harps carved out chances but failed to make them count. This time Ely made them pay and converted a break away.

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With the pressure back on, Harpenden refused to panic and started to rebuild, earning a short corner, which was executed perfectly to give Tom Bunbury a simple finish.

Ely then suffered a major blow, with their right midfield getting caught by a stick and having to leave the field of play. With Ely down to ten men, Harpenden capitalized with goals from Baines and Evans.

The result sets up a tense final day this Saturday. With the bottom four teams facing the drop and Ely and West Herts having already sealed their fate, Harpenden are one of four teams, alongside Bourne Deeping, Ipswich-East Suffolk and Upminster, fighting for their Division One lives.

A win for Harpenden on Saturday against West Herts and a loss for either Bourne Deeping or Ipswich-East Suffolk will keep them up. If they lose or draw, however, relegation will be assured.

Summing up the finish, Falk added: “Obviously it’s not in our own hands – we need to win at West Herts and a couple of other sides need to do us a favor, but there is a chance, and that’s what we need. It’s up to us to make sure we put the work in against West Herts, get the three points, and then see what happens.”