Harleston Magpies’ promotion dream ended in play-offs

Harleston Magpies' dream of a return to the National League Premier Division was crushed by two defeats on the decisive weekend of the promotion/relegation play-offs.

Magpies travelled to Reading knowing they had no room for error after losing 2-1 to South Conference champions Buckingham in their opening round robin match two weeks ago. But their hopes were virtually ended when they lost 2-0 to Olton – who finished second from bottom in the Premier League – on Saturday before suffering a cruel 6-1 defeat to Beeston, the North Conference champions, on Sunday.

Against Olton, having been presented with their individual medals for winning the East Conference before the match, Magpies started well and should have taken the lead in the opening 30 seconds. The chance which would have given them a massive boost slipped away and their experienced Premier League opposition led 1-0 after an even first half.

Magpies produced a tremendous second half performance, taking the game to Olton with an enormous number of shots. But nothing would go for them and the decisive moment came when former England player Lucilla Wright showed how to finish with a rasping shot off the underside of the bar.

The next day captain Charlotte Harrison was presented with the Investec East League Conference Trophy while Emma Lee-Smith received an award as the division's player of the season – as voted for by the other players in the league and Angie Wheelhouse was presented with an award for finishing as the league's joint leading scorer.

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Against Beeston, Magpies made a flying start as Hayley Toleman put them in front after 30 seconds. Unfortunately Beeston were level within a minute and though Magpies played some of their best hockey of the play-offs, causing the Beeston defence all sorts of problems, they trailed 2-1 at the interval. The second half was a different story as Beeston ran away to clinch promotion with a cruel 6-1 scoreline.

Coach Clyde Camburn reminded his team at the end that they should feel very proud of everything they had achieved this season – winning the East Conference while losing only two games all season.

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