Harrogate Hockey Club Ladies held by derby rivals but remain well clear at the summit
Hockey Club Ladies 1s remain six points clear at the top of North Division One despite being held to a draw by local rivals City of York.
Laura Beardsmore’s high-flyers twice came from behind to earn themselves a share of the spoils, extending their impressive unbeaten record for 2019/20 into a 15th match.
Saturday’s derby clash was played at a frantic pace and both Harrogate goalkeeper Sarah Jones and her opposite number had to make some fine saves during the first half to ensure that the sides went into the interval with the game still goalless.
York were quickly out of the blocks in the second period, winning a short-corner from which a well-worked move saw them break the deadlock.
‘Gate did not panic and quickly levelled matters when April Leeson seized upon a loose ball in the ‘D’, coolly rounding the visiting custodian and firing home.
York managed to break through for a second time during the closing stages, and it looked as if that strike would be enough to see them to victory.
Harrogate kept pressing forwards, however, and were rewarded with a late equaliser.
Tilly Hall dribbled past a couple of defenders, then passed to April Leeson, who quickly found Lucy Wood.
Her shot at goal hit the foot of a defender on the line, resulting in the award of a penalty-flick.
With just one minute left on the clock, Wood stepped up and under huge pressure, but fired into the top corner of the net to make it 2-2.
“The team kept fighting for the whole 70 minutes and never lost their desire to play hard for each other under pressure," coach Alex Fletcher reflected.
"Yet again, they found a way to score under pressure to maintain our unbeaten run.”
In the North Premier Division, Harrogate Men’s 1s also shared four goals equally with their opponents, Whitley Bay & Tynemouth.
It was the away side who drew first blood with a powerful effort that went through a body of players and left ‘Gate stopper Dan Garlick no chance.
Whitley Bay then extended their lead when their hosts were unable to deal with a dangerous cross, leaving an unmarked forward with a simple finish.
Harrogate threatened an equaliser but the Bay keeper saved from Chris Horne and Toby Harris to preserve the visitors’ two-goal cushion.
Tom Harris’ men started the second half on the front foot and, after some good work in the ‘D’ by Alex Sheldon, the ball fell to Will Rogers who reduced the arrears with a smart finish at the back post, sparking the game into life.
Despite the home team dominating possession, it was Bay who nearly put the game to bed, and only an excellent stop from 16-year-old Garlick kept the score at 2-1.
The importance of this save was underlined moments later when Harry Henderson drew the Ainsty Road outfit level with a calm finish, slotting the ball under the goalkeeper to set up a tense finale.
‘Gate piled on the pressure in the final stages, with Sheldon and Andy Clemerson both thwarted by the inspired Bay goalkeeper, and in the end they had to settle for just a point.
“I was pleased with the response in the second half after a lacklustre first half," said skipper Harris.
"We deserved to win the game over the course of the 70 minutes but have been punished for a poor opening quarter.
"We weren’t clinical enough but we are on a nice little run and we’ll look to keep it going this weekend when we visit York, then Chester."