The first weekend in February brought the 1s face to face with a tough double header of fixtures to try and drag themselves away from thoughts of relegation. Saturday saw Harleston Magpies make the return journey to Chelmer Park, earlier in the season they gave the hosts a thrashing with a side mixing experience and youth and a strict half court press game plan.
Chelmsford started cagily in possession, turning the ball over to the Harleston forward line on halfway leaving them to counterattack on the isolated back 4. The initial move was kept out, but with Chelmsford now penned into their own half Magpies recycled the ball out down the Chelmsford right to fire a ball into an unmarked midfielder who fired a backhand snapshot in at the near-post for 1-0.
Shocked into action the Green Team got into their work and proceeded to dominate large phases of the half, moving the ball well around midfield to find forward runners in wide areas who were consistently drawing a number of fouls resulting in a few Harleston players spending some time on the naughty step alongside Tom Fanger after a rare wild challenge sent him to the sin bin too. The main threat to the Magpies defence was Luke Mepham and he found himself on the ball twice in along the baseline into the circle only to be infringed while bearing down on the goal, however, with the penalty corner awarded the umpire seemed to find something to his disliking both times and much to Chelmsford’s dismay the decisions were reversed for a hit out.
With Chelmsford reeling from their own misfortune Harleston managed to catch the defense napping from a free hit in the Chelmsford left back area, with one pass eliminating two players the forward was then able to square the ball into the circle for a pair of forwards to deflect the ball agonisingly slowly into the far corner of the goal.
2-0 at half time was no reflection of the weight of play in the game and Chelmsford showed this with aplomb right from the re-start. Compiling a patient move of no less than 30 passes and involving touches from 9 players they worked the ball around the pitch with composure eventually finding Ollie Lane free wide left in the circle to unfurl a devastating forehand drive to peg a goal back via the top of the backboard.
Sadly, just as they had been brilliant, again the same defensive frailties appeared and 2 swift sloppy goals were conceded to leave the boys with a mountain to climb to rescue any points from 4-1 down.
Undeterred, and with a squad of 15, fresh legs were forcing the Harleston half court press ever deeper. Sam Rayner and Elliot Seleska were now dictating play inside the Magpies half with ease until finally the pressure told when Chelmsford forced not one but two goals back through cute finishes applied from close range by Seleska and the evergreen Vas Veerapalan to set up a grand-stand finish with the scores teetering at 4-3.
Chelmsford battered the away circle for the remaining 12 minutes; Mepham firing a couple of viscous Tomahawks into the keepers chest and the returning Adam Carter and Rob Plummer finding space in the circle at will to release shots and crosses for the Harleston defenders to repel. Agonisingly the game was summed up with only a minute left as Adam Carter found himself in space only 10 yards out and fired a ferocious slap mere fractions over the crossbar.