Bristol Firebrands 2
Harleston Magpies 6
Harleston Magpies had to be content with third place in this year’s England Hockey Mixed Trophy after losing to Formby on strokes in the semi-finals.
The defending champions were knocked out of the competition at the Lee Valley Sports Centre at the weekend after Formby advanced on strokes, with the two sides having played out a 0-0 draw.
Magpies then beat Bristol Firebrands 6-2 to take home the bronze medal.
Harleston never hit top form against Formby on Saturday, but they would have taken the lead had they converted a penalty stroke midway through a first-half which they had shaded the possession in.
There were few goal-scoring chances for either side in the second half, although Magpies did find the net as the final hooter was sounding.
Harleston, with captain Leigh Sitch in outstanding form at the back, looked the slightly better team and should have secured victory before the uncertainty of the penalty shoot-out.
Goalkeeper John Livings made two good saves for Magpies in the exciting and fluctuating shoot-out, and after five strokes apiece the score was 3-3.
Formby went first in sudden death and scored, before Harleston missed their next penalty to leave them pondering what could have been.
Magpies dusted themselves down the next day to play Firebrands in the third-place playoff.
Banbury had beaten Bristol 3-1 in the other semi-final on Saturday, and Harleston were near their best and soon into their stride as they targeted a bronze medal finish.
Magpies forced early penalty corners and following the fourth, won by Sitch in a rare foray up field, Maria Andrews put them ahead on five minutes. Lucy Whiting made it 2-0 in the 14th minute and after Firebrands, who possessed some hard running forwards, pulled a goal back in their first attack, Whiting was on hand to make it 3-1 to Harleston.
Whiting completed a splendid hat-trick 11 minutes from time, but Magpies were wondering if a male member of the team, in which Dickon Taylor was playing well at the back, was going to find the net.
The opportunity duly arrived three minutes from time. With Firebrands now reduced to 10 players following a yellow card and playing with a helmeted kicking back, Robbie Kinsella saw his opportunity and unerringly pushed the ball into the unguarded net.
Lauren Barber completed the scoring to make it 6-2 and ensure Magpies went away with a bronze medal for their efforts over the weekend.
An entertaining Mixed Trophy final saw Banbury finish as worthy winners after beating Formby 4-3.
Harleston’s title defence began back in January when they beat Ipswich 4-1 at Shortford Heath, before a trip to Saffron Walden in the next round yielded the same outcome.
A 5-0 thrashing at home against Norwich City in March was followed by an equally comfortable victory over Wisbech Town by the same scoreline in the next round.
Magpies kept up their trend of big wins with a 5-0 triumph against Khalsa in the quarter-finals last month before their title defence ended at the weekend with a penalty shoot-out defeat to Formby.
n Harleston Magpies’s annual meeting will be held on June 23, at 7.30pm.