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Harleston Magpies remain in East Men's League Premier A title race following derby victory over Ipswich

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Harleston Magpies Men’s first team remain hot on the heels of league-leading Wapping following Saturday’s 3-2 derby victory at Ipswich.

The win, which came courtesy of James Gray’s second-half goal, left Magpies second in the East Men’s League Premier A standings, three points adrift of the table toppers with 15 matches played.

Harleston started brightly and thought they had taken the lead when David Skinner finished neatly at the back post, only to see the goal disallowed for a foot earlier in build-up.

Hockey action from Harleston Magpies Men’s IV v IES IV..Picture by Mark Bullimore Photography. (6789229)
Hockey action from Harleston Magpies Men’s IV v IES IV..Picture by Mark Bullimore Photography. (6789229)

The game then settled into an even contest, with Harleston attempting to negate Ipswich’s direct threat.

With 15 minutes left of the first half, Harleston changed systems and boldly applied maximum pressure on Ipswich, forcing them into errors that led to chances for Dave Gilbert, Thomas Ridley and Raunaq Rai.

However, just when Harleston looked to be in charge, Ipswich went up the other end and scored against the run of play.

Nevertheless, the visitors did not flinch and within five minutes they were on level terms after a steal in midfield led to Skinner rounding the goalkeeper and smashing the ball at goal, which via a goalie clearance landed at Rai, who calmly slotted home.

Harleston started the second half well and gained control in the midfield through Ridley and Pete Bale, along with strong defending from Andrew Bedwell and Leigh Sitch.

Once again, however, just when Harleston knocked loudest Ipswich secured a short corner. Tim Whiteman using all his experience to pull Ipswich up the pitch by conceding the corner knowing that Harleston would be able to counter-attack.

Ipswich looked to have scored, only for the decision to be reversed.

Immensely smart thinking from Gray sparked a fantastic Harleston counter-attack as he played a long ball forward to Dave Gilbert, who carried it into the circle and squeezed home.

This was an evenly-contested match and despite good chances for Bale, Rai and Ridley, with such a small lead, Harleston were always in a precarious position and would have conceded if it was not for Chris Routs, who made a stunning save low down to his right.

Ipswich did, however, find a way through minutes later with a powerful short corner that made it 2-2.

Without a shred of panic, Harleston stuck to their game plan with Bale being found wide on the right. He found Gray, who picked up the scraps, turned and under pressure slotted past the goalkeeper on his reverse to score the winning goal. Magpies host Chelmsford (8th) tomorrow (3pm).

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