Wright stuff gives Magpies the edge

Harleston Magpies Men 3, Holcombe 2: Ben Wright's hat-trick helped Harleston Magpies make a winning start to the season with victory at home to much-fancied Holcombe on Sunday.

Having lost six of last year's squad, Magpies were bolstered by new signings Seb Knights and Mark Stackpoole, while some of the club's promising younger players have been promoted to the first team.

Among the new faces at Holcombe this season is ex-Magpies goalkeeper Richard Harms, who has moved to the south coast, although he did not feature against his old club at the weekend.

Wright went close early on following slick counter-attacking from the new Magpies' frontline, but the visitors took the lead on 18 minutes with a well-executed penalty corner.

Magpies responded well and forced three penalty corners in the latter stages of the first half. The last of these was expertly converted by Wright to level matters two minutes before half-time.

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The hosts started strongly in the second half and Wright put them ahead after Stackpoole had combined well with Stuart Leate and Richard Gill. Wright's treble was completed a minute later when Andy Bedwell crossed from the left and Wright swept the ball home.

The visitors drove forward but were continually rebuffed by the Magpies' defence, with Gill effective in the holding role. The pressure finally told as a second well-taken penalty corner reduced the deficit and ensured a tense finale.

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The Magpies keeper made two saves late on to preserve the home side's lead as they held out to claim three points.

• Chelmsford 1, Harleston Magpies Ladies 2

Magpies avenged last season's opening day 5-0 defeat to Chelmsford with victory in Essex on Saturday.

The visitors started well but Chelmsford seized on a misplaced pass in the Magpies' defence to take the lead against the run of play after 10 minutes.

Some strong running with the ball from Emma Lee-Smith, Angie Wheelhouse and Hannah Palmer troubled the home defence and resulted in a series of penalty corners, which Magpies failed to convert.

After half-time, skilful play down the right from Naomi Hull, Sarah Brook and Frances Sumner created further opportunities and Magpies drew level on 47 minutes with a powerful strike from Lee-Smith.

Magpies then deservedly took the lead when the impressive Charlotte Harrison passed to Lee-Smith, who beat two defenders before scoring her second of the game.

As Chelmsford pushed for an equaliser, strong tackles from Becky Baker and a diving save from Charlotte Lee-Smith in the final seconds secured a winning start to the season.

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