Harleston Magpies 1, Sevenoaks 1
- Credit: Archant
Harleston Magpies secured the Women's East Conference title – and a place in the Premier League play-offs – when they got the result they needed against closest challengers Sevenoaks on Saturday.
Magpies went into their final league game of the season knowing they only had to avoid a four-goal defeat to finish top and in a tight game, played out in testing conditions, it soon became clear that the nightmare scenario was never going to materialise.
In the end a late goal from the visitors denied Harleston maximum points, but the draw was more than enough to take them through to the play-offs next month, when four teams will be battling it out for two places in the top flight.
The weather was terrible on Saturday but the pitch was playable when many other games around the country were called off.
Magpies started very nervously and struggled to get the ball out of their own half on a surface made slow by the falling snow.
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Joint player-of-the match Megan Adams kept out a series of Sevenoaks penalty corners before a few positional changes brought about a dramatic change in the game.
Katherine Ridley and Emma Lee Smith were now distributing the ball effectively to the Magpies' forwards but the first half finished scoreless.
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Magpies started the second half in more determined mood and soon scored a crucial goal through in-form striker Angie Wheelhouse.
A large home support was now in good voice. The goal gave Magpies more confidence and the midfield duo of Debbie Francis and joint player-of-the-match Sarah Brook started to control possession and territory.
Fortunately the snow eased and Magpies' supporters were counting down the minutes towards their most important result in nearly a decade. Sevenoaks did find a late equaliser but it wasn't enough to stop Magpies winning the league by three points.
England hockey official Sheila George was on hand to present Magpies with the league trophy. They now go forward to the Premier League play-offs in April. This involves four teams competing for two places at the elite level of women's hockey in this country. Buckingham have already booked their place while Beeston and Olton and West Warwickshire look set to join them, although that has still to be confirmed following a host of postponements at the weekend.
Magpies have already gained promotion to the Indoor Premier League for next season, their second team has just won promotion to the East Premier League and the Under-18s are involved in the National Finals outdoors and indoors during April.