Harleston Magpies win promotion back to National Hockey League

Harleston Magpies celebrate winning the Premier A title in the East Men's League. Picture: Pate Leat

Harleston Magpies celebrate winning the Premier A title in the East Men's League. Picture: Pate Leate - Credit: Archant

Harleston Magpies cruised to a 6-0 victory over Felixstowe to clinch the East League title – and secure a return to the National League set-up.

With morning leaders Wapping having already completed their fixtures Magpies had to beat their relegated opponents at Weybread to ensure promotion, and this they did with something to spare.

Harleston struggled for an early breakthrough but finally got the goal they craved when Ben Wright converted from a penalty corner.

Felixstowe continued to give Harleston something to think about and the hosts had to wait until the 30th minute to add to their tally as replacement Simon Hipwell popped up at the back post to flick the ball home to end his two-year goal drought. Harleston then quickly scored their third goal when Andy Hipwell slotted home from close range.

Harleston played some excellent attacking hockey in the second half and quickly added a fourth when Andrew Bedwell drove forward to send James Baker through to slot home.

Wright then scored the fifth and his second when Bedwell again won the ball before finding Mark Wheelhouse who in turn picked out Andy Hipwell at the top of the circle. He unselfishly played the ball to Wright at the back post to slot into an empty net.

The goal of the game came next when Baker was released down the right, drove towards the Felixstowe goal and remained calm to slot the ball neatly under the arm of the advancing ex-Magpie keeper Marc Lloyd.

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Home keeper John Livings was only called into action at a penalty corner as the defensive back line of Tristan Baynes, Leigh Sitch, Wheelhouse, Richard Larkin, Bedwell and Sam Rowe stood strong.

'It's great to be back in the National League after three seasons out of it,' said Magpies skipper Wheelhouse. 'Over the course of the season I think we deserved it and now the challenge is to consolidate at a higher level.

'I don't think we will be losing any players and we would obviously like to add a few to the squad during the summer, because it will be much tougher in the National League.'

Elsewhere in Premier A Dereham ended their six-match losing streak by producing arguably their best performance of the season to record an 8-5 victory over Chelmsford in a hugely entertaining match.

Striker Mike Timm claimed a four goal-haul, with Laurie Hill, Reece Laffar, Will Edwards and Will Dewing also registering as Dereham emerged victorious in a contest dominated by attacking hockey and high quality goals.

'It was great to end the season with a win as the past couple of months have been difficult for us', said captain Andy Lawrence.

'We played some really great stuff and restored some much needed confidence, something that will help our preparations for next season.

'It will be a record fifth successive year for us in Premier A, which is another significant milestone.'

Although the majority of Dereham's squad will stay together for the next campaign, a number of players will not be involved. Youngsters James Lavers, Matt Plater, Matt Turner, James Carnell and Will Dewing are all heading to university, while experienced former National League defender Matt Stainthorpe has decided to take an extended break from the game.

Norwich Dragons IV travelled to Harleston Magpies V where they were crowned Division 5NE after a tense 1-0 win.

Sam Mann poked home the all-important goal a minute after the restart while Alex Stone was man-of-the-match.

Dragons III lost 2-1 to Bury St Edmunds II in Division 4NE with Matt Jenkins getting the goal.

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