Magpies steal the points from Harpenden

Harpenden I 2 Harlestone Magpies II 3

HOCKEY: HARLESTONE Magpies scored three second half goals to secure a narrow victory over Harpenden.

Harpenden started brightly enough, immediately putting the visitors under pressure. Nick McLean should have scored in the opening five minutes, but failed to make proper contact with Danny Burgess’ fine cross. However, Harpenden did not have to wait long to open their account.

David Falk gave the home side the early advantage, sweeping in a rebound, following an Alex Beggs effort. Once again, Beggs hinted at his potency in front of goal by opening up the space to lash in an instinctive shot following a Harpenden free hit. His initial attempt was parried but fell straight into the path of Falk, who ruthlessly slotted home.

With a goal cushion, Harpenden’s advances became fewer but it still took time for Magpies to wrest control of the game, with short corners their only tangible efforts before half-time.

That changed after the break and was in part down to Harpenden to decision to push further up the field as they looked to extend their advantage. To counter, the Magpies flooded Harpenden with a five-man midfield, swapping positions regularly, and this tactic eventually paid off as a fine through ball, exposed the Harpenden defence with the stretching David Jeffrey just failing to cover.

With the ball bouncing along the ground, the Magpies striker attempted a half volley from six yards out when a flick might have yielded a better result. However, the ball took a deflection off the toe of Muddy Water’s stick and fell inviting for the Magpies centre forward to tap in. Skipper Tom Bunbury was fuming with his defenders for allowing their attack so much room in the D.

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The visitors then took the lead, again in fortunate circumstances. Tom Ward was adjudged to have fouled the right winger deep in Harpenden’s D, when the contact by the Magpies attacker looked much the stronger. From the resulting short corner, Magpies whipped a drag flick into to the roof of the net.

As the rain began to lash down the game turned scrappy with Mike Bowler and Todd Baines both off-target with half-chances, as Harpenden tried to claw their way back. Following a free-hit, Thomas beat the Magpies defence to complete a long range pass to McLean, who had finally found some space high up the park. His centre picked out Burgess who smashed in from the angle.

With the match all square Harpenden then fatally stepped off the gas and were made to suffer as the visitors scored a third with a classy reverse stick finish. Despite some desperate final probing by Falk and Joe Gosling, Harps midfield could not find the crucial pass to their forwards and in reality the last goal had ended the game as a contest.

The defeat leaves Bunbury’s team seven points above the relegation zone and although his team appear to have the talent to avoid that stress, this result will cause them concern.