Dereham Ladies just one point clear at top after second successive defeat
- Credit: Archant
Dereham Ladies are under a little pressure at the top of East League Division One North – after looking like nailed on certainties for the title a few weeks back.
After winning their first 16 games to clinch promotion in a season when three are going up Dereham have now lost twice in a row, with both defeats coming at home at the hands of their closest challengers.
They followed up a 4-0 reverse at the hands of Bedford II by going down 2-1 to Cambridge University on Saturday and are now just a point clear of the students with four games left to play.
The re-arranged match at Greenfields Road was played at high intensity from start to finish, with the pace and fitness of a well drilled University side testing the home team throughout.
After an even start the students broke the deadlock with a textbook move straight off the training ground. The hosts pushed on looking to create chances but the final pass seemed to elude them while good defensive work prevented any more goals at the other end.
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Dereham started the second half much stronger after some words of wisdom from coaches Andy Lawrence and CJ Edwards. They were now pressing hard and winning the ball higher up the pitch and when a quickly taken free-hit made its way to Becca Taylor in the D her smart touch set the ball up perfectly for Grace Gowing to finish.
Dereham went close to taking the lead after some superb build-up play and soon after the students won a short corner which although stopped by Becca Gibbs on the line ended up as penalty stroke as the ball bobble up into her body. Keeper Siobhan Cleeve went the right way but the ball still found the back of the net.
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Dereham's player of the match was Helen Malcomson who had her best game since her return, showing strength in defence, making numerous interceptions and tackles while also playing a key part in attacks down the right.
Norwich Dragons consolidated their mid-table position by beating bottom side St Neots 7-2 at The Den after conceding first and then being pegged back to 2-2 early in the second half.
Determined to put an end to a run of lacklustre performances, Dragons came out hard from the opening whistle and turned an impressive display.
Maddy Reynolds took centre stage by grabbing a hat-trick, Issy Wolfe scored twice and Katy Hands and Olivia Thomas also found the back of the net.
Watton missed out on a chance to go top of Division Two North East when they crashed to a 5-1 home defeat at the hands of mid-table Norwich City II.
Helen Busfield led the way for the visitors by scoring a hat-trick while Millie Brown and player of the match Effie Bowley were also on target in a result that saw Watton remain a point behind leaders North Norfolk, with all the sides now having four more matches to play.
It promises to be an exciting end to the season, with third placed Norwich Dragons II a single point further back.
Harleston Magpies III moved up to fifth with a 1-0 win at their Dragons counterparts.
It was a quiet weekend in the East League - although two of Norwich City's three senior teams did see some action in re-arranged fixtures.
The relegation doomed seconds produced one of their best performances of the season in Division One to beat Sudbury 6-2 at Taverham thanks to four goals from Cameron Cooke and two from Chris Wardale.
There was no such joy for the thirds in their Division Two North East derby against Norwich Dragons, which ended up in a 4-0 home defeat.
City performed well in a goalless first half, with the inside trio of Lloyd Sayer, Ben Chapman and Jonty Black linking up well with the forwards and stalwart Simon Black putting his body on the line to block a few shots heading towards keeper Luke Elwes.
After the break it was a different story as Pedro Goss, Jon Chaney Baxter, Al Brown and Sam Avery all hit the target to make it three wins out of four for the visitors.
Pelicans returned home empty handed from their long journey to Kettering after a 6-2 defeat.
The battle for promotion to the Premier Division took a big twist on a day when most teams were having a break.
Leaders Diss suffered their first defeat of the season when they went down 3-2 at closest rivals Reepham, who are now just two points behind them.
The result was also good news for Carrow, who are now only a point further back after seeing off Lowestoft Railway II 3-1 at Langley School.
In Division Three Thetford won 4-0 at Norwich City VII (Kathy Hammond 2, Sarah Nichol, Gerena Pernia).
Harleston Magpies Ladies took a big step towards securing their place in the new-look National League set-up via a top six finish when they beat Horsham 1-0 at The Nest.
With the visitors immediately below them in the table this was a big game for the fifth-placed hosts and victory opened up a six point gap with only five games remaining.
Magpies welcomed back Jade Daly in goal for the unfortunate Meg Brown who played two games last weekend with a broken wrist as well as Tor Findley, Lucy Whiting and Lauren Rowe.
From the start Magpies were in no mood to allow Horsham to settle and within the first two minutes Lara Taylor was fouled, gaining Magpies' first short corner of the match. Rowe sent a trademark flick towards the top right which was parried by the keeper, only for Taylor to be the quickest to react to the loose ball and fire home.
The first half was then marred by injuries to Emma Lee Smith and also a stick to the head on Whiting who was unable to play any further part in the match.
Horsham pressed after the break and gained several short corners, all of which were well marshalled by the home defence.
The game continued to ebb and flow, but both attacks struggled to carve out any clear-cut chances, with both defences holding strong.
Squad: L Barber, J Daly, A Nunn, L Greenacre, K Sitch, D Francis, C Harrison, L Taylor, V Findley, K Ridley, L Whiting, L Clymer, L Rowe, E Lee-Smith, F Burrell, K Ayling.
Young players took centre stage at King's Lynn on Sunday with the staging of the In2Hockey County Championship Finals.
There were competitions for under-10s and under-12s, with the top two teams going through to the regional finals at Harleston in April.
The under-10 boys' tournament was won by Norwich Dragons, with Norwich City runners-up, while Dragons also won the girls' event, with Dereham their closest challengers
Dereham won the under-12 boys' tournament, with Dragons the runners-up, while Harleston Magpies girls were under-12 champions and Dereham the runners-up.