Wardale’s goal takes Norwich City to the brink of East League Premier Division survival
- Credit: Archant
Norwich City took a big step towards securing their East League top flight status on an afternoon when Harleston Magpies confirmed they would be going up.
With just one team going down this season due to league reorganisation City's 1-0 win over bottom side Letchworth moved them eight points clear of danger with just four matches left to play.
The all important goal came midway through the first half when captain Louis Preston burst through the middle and passed to Josh Bailey who picked out the unmarked Chris Wardale to convert.
The league rejig also means four teams will be going up from Premier A and Magpies will be one of them, despite losing 4-3 at Bedford.
After going ahead when Tom Ridley converted a Will Tew cross the visitors found themselves 2-1 down at the break. Dave Gilbert converted from a penalty corner to equalise - and after going behind again the visitors made it 3-3 through a fierce strike from man of the match Ridley.
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Bedford had the final say late on from a disputed penalty flick - but Magpies could still celebrate afterwards when other results confirmed promotion.
Dereham suffered a disappointing 6-3 defeat at City of Peterborough II in Premier B while Magpies seconds beat Potters Bar 4-3 in Division 1N to boost their survival hopes. Andy Hipwell led the way with a hat-trick while the other goal came from Rob Kinsella following an excellent team move. Norwich City II lost 4-1 at Upminster, with Tom Hindle getting the consolation.
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Dereham seconds had a good 4-2 win over Pelicans in Division 2NE but there was no luck for Norwich Dragons, who went down 3-2 at home to City of Peterborough III, or Norwich City III, who crashed 6-2 at Cambridge South. Sam Avery and Al Browne were on target for Dragons and Dan Jeffers and Rees Leonard for a City side who were reduced to 10 men by an injury to Simon Black when the score was 5-0.
Harleston Magpies Ladies made the short trip to Ipswich for a local derby and came away with a 2-0 win that all but sealed their place in the new-look National League set-up for next season.
Needing to finish in the top six of the East Conference to feature, Magpies are now nine points clear of seventh placed Bedford with just four games left to play.
The visitors knew Ipswich would have gained confidence after a draw away at St Albans last weekend and that they would have to start the game strongly. The team tried to do just that in the first half but the final pass or shot was not working out for them in the early stages. This allowed Ipswich to work their way into the game and start putting some pressure on.
The hosts created chances and won some short corners but Magpies kept them out and managed to create some chances on the break. They finally made the breakthrough just before half-time when they won a penalty stroke which was converted cooly by Lauren Rowe.
In the second half Magpies knew Ipswich would put pressure on their defence but they tried to stick to their own game plan and continued to create chances. Ipswich's defence kept the away attackers at bay with their strong defending and tackling before Magpies eventually managed to win a short corner and a strike from the top of the D from Emma Lee-Smith found the bottom corner.
After this Ipswich changed their tactics by moving higher up the pitch but Magpies stood firm to come away with all three points.
Magpies welcome Sevenoaks to the Nest on Saturday (1.30pm) for what will be a tough match as the Kent side are on the same points but with a better goal difference.
Sevenoaks will also be looking to make up for a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Magpies at Holly Bush Lane earlier in the season.
Squad: Lauren Barber (captain), Jade Daly, Annie Nunn, Louisa Greenacre, Katrina Sitch, Debbie Francis, Charlotte Harrison, Rose Winter, Lottie Summers, Katherine Ridley, Georgie Cantrell, Lizzie Clymer, Lauren Rowe, Emma Lee-Smith, Frances Burrell, Sarah Bracey.
Division 1N leaders Dereham got their season back on track after successive home defeats.
They won 2-0 at relegation threatened Lowestoft to remain a point clear of Cambridge University.
Dereham could hardly have got off to a better start, with Hayley Toleman firing home inside two minutes. The same player diverted home a cross from Tash Grapes to make it two before the break and that's how it stayed, with some determined defence keeping the visitors out.
Norwich Dragons, who are set for a mid-table finish, went down 4-2 at Sudbury, with Issy Wolfe
and Katy Hands getting the goals.
Both the region's representatives in the Premier Division were involved in tight games, with Harleston Magpies II seeing off West Herts 2-1 at the Nest (Tor Findlay, Georgie Gardens) and Norwich City losing 3-2 at Broxbourne, after being 2-1 ahead with just seven minutes to play. Krystal Bishop scored both of City's goals while Ellie Brine was player of the match.
North Norfolk took a big step towards clinching the Division 2NE title by winning 3-0 at third placed Dragons II while closest challengers Watton were drawing 3-3 at Yarmouth. It all leaves the Cromer-based side three clear at the top.
There were some good individual performances from Dragons despite the defeat, notably from Mima Watson and Sarah Borrett.
Dragons III won 1-0 at bottom side Felixstowe (Hannah Ellis) and City II beat UEA 4-1 (Hannah Bush 2, Milly Brown, Leigh-Ann Worrall).
Poppy Beales scored twice and Laura Tea was also on target as Pelicans beat Cambridge City IV 3-1 in Division 2NE.
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Broadland won 5-1 at Norwich City IV to end any mathematical arguments about the destination of the Premier Division title.
Kelly Allen converted a cross from star player Catherine Brewster to open the scoring only for City to equalise through Millie Clarke. But within minutes Broadland restored their advantage through Abi Dennison and after the break Helen Brockington unleashed a thunderbolt for their third and Hattie Hobart added a fourth. The visitors completed the scoring when captain Lydia Lawrence ghosted in to sweep home.
Loddon remain second after seeing off Magpies IV 3-1 but Norwich City III are still breathing down their necks. They cruised home 6-0 at Dereham III thanks to a hat-trick from Ellie Hobden, two from Kim Lusher and one from Holly Robinson.
Broadland II boosted their chances of avoiding the drop with a 3-0 win over Evergreens secured by goals from Nikki Baker, Amelia Anema and Catherine Brewster. Greens were always in the game and it took a number of good saves from Jen Crawford to keep them out. In other top flight games Pelicans II beat Dragons IV 3-0 and Lowestoft Railway won 2-1 at UEA II.
There's no change at the top of Division One with leaders Diss winning 2-0 at Beccles and closest challengers Reepham cruising home 7-0 at Dragons V.