Struggling Harpenden defeated by Blueharts

Defeat leaves Harps one point above relegation zone

East Premier League

Blueharts 3 Harpenden 1

HOCKEY: DEFEAT on Saturday leaves Harpenden just one point above the relegation zone in the East Premier League, but it was a cruel score line for Tom Bunbury’s team who turned in a much improved performance.

Skipper Bunbury’s health will not exactly have been helped by the number of goalmouth scrambles in front of Ben Brind’s goal in the closing stages, but apart from a couple individual mistakes in the first half, Harpenden returned a competitive display and looked well set for a draw throughout most of the second half.

Initially, Harpenden started slowly and were immediately under pressure. Discipline and commitment were the order of the day as the Whites weathered Blueharts’ early sorties. Harpenden’s cause was not helped by the loss of Paul Wise, who was given oxygen as he left the pitch on a stretcher with what appeared to be a serious hamstring injury.

In a chaotic goalmouth scramble, Man of the Match Tom Adams produced an excellent last ditch tackle to deny the Blueharts centre forward but in the m�l�e David Waters appeared to handle the ball inside his own D, resulting in a penalty stroke. Blueharts converted and shortly after, following some imaginative attacking play, extended their lead, courtesy of an unfortunate Harps deflection.

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Having only scored 12 times in their previous five league games, Harpenden have not found goals easy to come by this season. So any comeback would require a Herculean effort. With this objective, Bunbury’s side showed tremendous spirit in the second half with the home sides’ keeper producing a one-handed stop to keep out Jonny Bakers slap shot before another Russell Timms goal gave the visiting side hope.

Nick Pomfret’s burst down the right ended with a lay-off to Bunbury, and his cross was pushed by James Singer into the path of Timms. The winger, who has only returned recently for Harpenden, following his nightmare injury in the 2011 European Indoor Championship in Riga, exchanged passes with David Falk before cutting inside the D, wrong footing the Blueharts defence and firing across the keeper.

Harpenden continued to pile on the pressure in the closing stages, desperately looking to score an equaliser. Unfortunately, great counter attacking from the home side killed the visitors off with a well taken third goal.

From virtually the last play of the game Blueharts’ left winger fired home low via a slight deflection from a ball cut-back across the D to wrap up the points.

After the game Bunbury said, “We can’t keep going on saying we did alright. You’ve got to win a game and today was one we could have really done with winning”.

He continued, “We couldn’t get properly going today and allowed their first two goals to affect our performance too much.”

Harpenden will look to return to winning ways this Saturday as they entertain Long Sutton at home.