Magpies prepare to defend their Mixed national title

GOING FOR GLORY: Members of the Harleston Magpies Mixed Team. (Back row from left): Maria Andrews, Lucy Whiting, Dickon Taylor, Simon Hipwell, Sam Moore, Frances Taylor, Richard Larkin, James MeekFront. Front row L-R: Lauren Mickleburgh, Lizzie Clymer, Katrina Sitch (vice-captain), Robbie Kinsella, John Livings (GK), Andrew Bedwell, Leigh Sitch (captain), Lauren Barber

GOING FOR GLORY: Members of the Harleston Magpies Mixed Team. (Back row from left): Maria Andrews, Lucy Whiting, Dickon Taylor, Simon Hipwell, Sam Moore, Frances Taylor, Richard Larkin, James MeekFront. Front row L-R: Lauren Mickleburgh, Lizzie Clymer, Katrina Sitch (vice-captain), Robbie Kinsella, John Livings (GK), Andrew Bedwell, Leigh Sitch (captain), Lauren Barber

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Captain Leigh Sitch believes that the Harleston Magpies Mixed Team’s experience of winning England Hockey’s Mixed Trophy 12 months ago will prove invaluable when they attempt to defend their title this weekend.

Last year, the Magpies recorded a 3-0 win over Bedford in the final at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre to lift the trophy for the first time since 2004.

On Saturday, Formby will provide the semi-final opposition at the same venue, but Sitch is confident that his side will benefit from their previous experiences.

“We have virtually the same team as last year, which is a big plus,” he said.

“This is the third time in recent years that this squad has reached Finals Day, so we know what it is all about.

“We have now got the experience of winning as well and that could end up being the difference.

“The nerves should be lessened because of what has gone before and I am quite confident that we can come out on top over the weekend.”

In Formby, Harleston, who will wear a new kit sponsored by Parson Ltd Estate Agents, will be up against a team that has scored 25 goals and conceded only three on their way to reaching this point.

On top of that, the Merseyside-based outfit will be spurred on by the penalty strokes defeat that they suffered at the hands of Reading in the semi-finals of the Mixed Plate last year.

Even so, the Magpies have also shown some impressive form of late, culminating in a comprehensive 5-0 victory over Khalsa in the previous round.

They have let in just two goals so far, although Sitch has admitted that they will need to be firing at both ends of the pitch to reach Sunday’s final.

“Formby’s men play in the same league as our men, so we know a little about them,” he added.

“They score a lot of goals and do not concede too many, which means that it is going to be tough.

“We have made a point of building ourselves on solid foundations and we see being solid defensively as an important task.

“At the same time, we must be clinical and take our chances, just like we did in the quarter-finals.”

Not since Phoenix in 2007 has a team been able to mount a successful defence of the trophy.

With that in mind, Sitch is excited by the prospect of his squad ending the nine-year drought.

“It will be an incredible achievement if we can pull it off,” said Sitch.

“It should be considered the perfect reward for all of the hard work and it is a source of much pride.”