UEA Hockey Men’s 1XI produced a commanding display to beat league leaders Harleston Magpies 3XI 6-1 at the Sportspark on Saturday. With a game in hand, UEA will have an opportunity to go top of the table with victory at Dereham next weekend.
Photo: Tom Oliver
A direct start from the Magpies put UEA under early pressure, and the visitors quickly took the lead when an unmarked player in the circle rifled a shot past goalkeeper Tom Esterhuizen.
This provided the spark that the Us needed to kick-on. UEA started dictating the tempo of play, with the midfield trio of Gabriel Inch, Max Baiden and fresher Dan Woods settling the side and controlling possession. This lead to long periods of pressure on the Magpies’ circle, which eventually told when Inch shot past the Harleston keeper to level the scores.
UEA had found their rhythm, passing the ball around comfortably before finding gaps in the Magpies’ defence. Following outstanding play from fresher Jon Morley along the flank, Ben Mann netted his fourth of the season in only three matches. Soon after, fresher Richard Shapland bagged his first for the club to make it 3-1.
The final minutes of the half saw the Magpies push for goals, but found UEA keeper Esterhuizen in great form, saving one hammered shot with his face.
Captain Baiden’s message at half-time was to keep the pressure up in the face of what would surely be a second half push by the Magpies to reduce the deficit.
Baiden called it correctly as the Magpies came out looking for goals, but UEA maintained their composure and quickly got back on the front-foot, with fresher Woods increasing their lead with his first goal for the club.
The hosts’ fifth goal came from good play by fresher Joshua Glass, who shrugged off several defenders before powering a shot at goal. The Magpies keeper did well to smother the initial shot, however was helpless when Merlin Smethurst emphatically prodded over the line.
Magpies continued to attack at the other end, but Esterhuizen and his defence excelled in repelling the visitors. As a result, the home side found plenty of room in which to counter. One such break by Mann found Sam Coyne in space, with Coyne able to slice past the keeper to make the score 6-1.
Both sides had further chances and a Magpies short-corner at the final whistle would prove to be the most dangerous of them. A well taken flick almost found the visitors a second goal and the head of post-defender Dom Samways, but UEA managed to clear, capping off an all-round successful performance.
The victory, and the high-quality play that secured it, will keep the side buoyant when they face new league leaders Dereham 2s next weekend. The result of that match will give a big indication as to the level of this UEA team, who remain unbeaten.