EAST MEN’S LEAGUE
PREMIER DIVISION A
Harleston Magpies 2
Ipswich I 3
In what was their first outing since the Christmas break, Harleston Magpies’ first team lost by the odd goal in five at home to Ipswich on Saturday.
The defeat, which saw fourth-placed Magpies surrender a two-goal half-time lead, has widened the gap to St Albans in third to 10 points, while fifth-placed Bedford are only below on goal difference.
Hosting Magpies were without several key players for the encounter, with Robbie Kinsella, Matt Richardson, Archie Winter, Jack Knight, Simon Hipwell and John Livings all unavailable.
However, on a more positive note, Chris Leek made his debut in goal and the team also welcomed Pete Bale back into the fold.
Despite all of the absentees, Magpies went in front within the opening 60 seconds.
A well-placed pass from player-coach Ben Wright picked out Richard Larkin, who drove into the D and drilled the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
As the half progressed, Ipswich slowly started to gain a foothold on proceedings with some long balls that troubled the Harleston defence.
The direct approach earned the visitors a series of short corners, which were well thwarted by the combination of Tom Ridley and Leek.
Up the other end, Magpies also forced some short corners of their own with one being converted by a trademark Wright late-release flick to make the scoreline 2-0.
Yet after the restart, Harleston’s lack of matches over recent weeks started to tell as Ipswich’s superior fitness levels saw them get on top.
The away side were level courtesy of two drag flicks, before the winning goal came courtesy of a deflection off Leek’s pads.
n Magpies have the opportunity to bounce back tomorrow when they travel to Essex to take on bottom-placed Chelmsford (2pm).
When the two sides met for the reserve fixture back on October 15, Magpies were in rampant form during a 9-2 triumph.