There will be few fingernails left and the need for medical support in the crowd will only increase if this becomes the norm for City of Peterborough as they inch towards a return to National League hockey.
The city side pipped Harleston 4-3 at Bretton Gate today (February 17) after trying their hardest to turn a commanding victory into the dropping of points. The hockey on show wasn’t great, but the tension was so evident in such a big game it turned into a heart-stopping occasion, metaphorically speaking thankfully.
City led 2-0 at the break, 3-0 early in the second-half and 4-1 with 20 minutes to go, but the last 10 minutes turned into a frantic affair as the visitors fought their way back into a gruelling contest.
As it happens, the defensive errors which enabled Harleston to creep within a goal disappeared in the final stretch and City won’t actually care how they win the rest of their matches as long as the three points arrive.
Four games remain and four wins will guarantee an East Premier A Division title and promotion to the National League. This was one of their two toughest remaining games - Harleston had only lost one match all season - and the other is the final match at Bedford.
City were missing two key men in Alex Armstrong and Ross Ambler today and while they have the attacking strength to combat the loss of the latter, the former’s composure at centre-half wasn’t so easy to overcome.
City often wobbled at the start, but a rather lucky goal for Manish Patel after Joe Finding had almost made a complete hash of a short corner settled the nerves on nine minutes. Finding’s short corner goal for 2-0 on 20 minutes came against the run of play, but City took control for the rest of the half after that and were denied an excellent third goal for Ben Read by a late umpire’s whistle.
Harleston started the second-half well, but again a short corner delivered a goal for City with Brendan Andrews slapping home hard on the reverse side after an initial shot had been saved.
A harshly awarded penalty stroke gave Harleston a lifeline, but within five minutes Patel had struck again from close range and that should have been that.
But Harleston were allowed to dribble the ball home from a penalty corner for 4-2 and James Fisher had to make a fine save on the line to stop the visitors moving to within a goal almost immediately.
A Henry Ricketts blunder did give Harleston a third goal just before the hour mark, but he and the rest of the City defence shut up shop effectively for the rest of the game.
City goalkeeper Cameron Goodey made some fine saves in both halves, but had nothing to do towards the end.
City are four points clear of second-placed St Albans who beat Letchworth 5-0 today. City host lowly Saffron Walden next Saturday (February 24) before taking on Chelmsford away (March 3) and Letchworth at home (March 10) ahead of the Bedford trip (March 17).
St Albans host Harleston on the final day. City have a vastly superior goal difference compared to their rivals.