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Harleston Magpies Men's first team secure promotion to National League despite defeat to Bedford

It may not have been the way they wanted to get the job done, but Harleston Magpies Men’s first team sealed promotion to the National League on Saturday.

Second-placed Magpies made the trip to Bedford knowing that a victory would seal them a place in the East Men’s League Premier A top four and subsequently elevation to a higher standard for the 2019/20 campaign.

But they ended up falling short at Bedford, going down 4-3 at the home of their fellow promotion chasers.

Weybread, Suffolk, UK, 27 October 2018..Hockey action from Harleston Men's 1 v Cambridge University...Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography. (7630064)
Weybread, Suffolk, UK, 27 October 2018..Hockey action from Harleston Men's 1 v Cambridge University...Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography. (7630064)

However, results elsewhere went in Magpies’ favour, meaning they have completed their pre-season objective with three matches left to spare.

Team manager Kevin Ridley said: “It is not the way we wanted to get it finished but results went our way and we will take it.

“It was a close and physical game at Bedford – the sort of game we are going to get more of next season.

“A draw probably would have been a fair result but it was not to be.

“It has been a good season all round and everyone wants to play at a higher level. The team spirit has been great and the players really deserve the promotion.”

Magpies return to home comforts tomorrow when relegation-threatened Norwich City I will be their visitors (3pm).

Promotion may have been sealed, but Ridley does not want to see the season peter out.

“We do not want to finish on a losing note or by switching off,” he added. “The game against Norwich is a big one for the club because it is a derby and a lot of our sponsors will be attending, so we want to put on a show.

“We are already looking ahead to next season and part of those plans is to make sure we finish on a high this year.”

While player arrivals and departures during the off-season are inevitable, Ridley believes that Magpies will be competitive at a higher level.

“You are always looking for players that can improve the squad,” he said. “Losing players happens and we could have one or two going to university or moving because of their jobs.

“But on the flip side we might get some of our former youth players back from university and we will also look to youth players we currently have at the club.

“As long as we put in the type of performances we have this season there is no reason why we will not compete with the sides in the National League.”

Against Bedford it was Magpies who opened the scoring when Tom Ridley struck, but they were pegged back before the break with two goals by the hosts.

Parity was restored shortly after the restart when Dave Gilbert finished off a smartly-worked short corner routine.

More sloppy defending allowed Bedford to get their noses back in front, but once again Magpies regained their composure to draw level at 3-3 thanks to Ridley’s second goal of the contest.

However, the home team scored a fourth goal from a penalty stroke seven minutes from time, and this time there was no reply.

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