Good wins for Ladies teams but Mens Firsts lose to Cliftonville

Action from Ballymena Firsts game against Cliftonville.  INBT 50-912H
Action from Ballymena Firsts game against Cliftonville. INBT 50-912H

The Ladies Seconds travelled to Ballyclare hoping to make light work of a team propping up the bottom of the league table, but after a frustrating first half, Ballyclare certainly made their opponents work for the points.

From the off, Ballymena had much of the first half pressure and possession reducing Ballyclare into counter attacking to stretch across the half way line.

McClintock had lots of space on the left wing and soon had played Rachel Murphy in for another shot that was again deflected off the keeper’s pads.

By now the Ballymena forwards were rampant, but still could not increase the score, as Storey and Logan both had excellent chances well saved by some brilliant goal keeping to keep Ballyclare in touch.

Into the second half and Ballymena started as they finished with Amy Logan rounding the last defender and with only the keeper again to beat, just couldn’t extend her team’s lead.

Ballyclare pushed players forward searching to level the game, but as Rachel Murphy’s reverse sweep rebounded off the Ballyclare keeper’s pads, the home side were away in a strong break that forced keeper Hanna off her line for the first time to clear the danger one on one with the Ballyclare forward.

However as Ballymena went a player down to a green card, Ballyclare seized their chance and in only their second visit inside the Ballymena D, won a penalty corner, which they pinged off the post and as the Ballymena defence lost the ball Ballyclare forced it over the line to draw the game.

Ballymena sparked again and pushed even harder to regain their lead and this time another penalty corner did bring rewards as Greer cleverly moved the goalkeeper off her line, before the ball was slotted to Lorna Murphy again back post to push home for a 2-1 lead.

Ballymoney Ladies 3rd XI (1) v (2) Ballymena Ladies 3rd XI: Ballymena 3rds travelled the short distance to Ballymoney to play a team who had won their last encounter 5-0 and with 6 enforced changes from last week, the odds were firmly stacked against the Ballymena ladies.

However, the players drafted in were worthy of handsome rewards as the team produced another superb performance, starting well to the pressure on the home defence.

Early chances went begging, although midway through the first half Kirsten Young latched onto an accurate pass from Julie Kernohan and produced an unstoppable shot to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

Charlene Lorimer and Rebecca McPeake could have added a few more but for some last ditch tackles by the home defence.

Following half-time, Ballymoney utilised their substitutes well, with a number of skilful and fast players coming on in an attempt to turn things around.

After 10 minutes the Ballymena defence cracked and allowed a well taken goal through to level the match. Ballymena had another few attempts at goal that would have sealed the game but again some powerful defending kept them at bay.

Joanne Logan produced a number of great tackles; one of which sent Jessica Duncan off on a mazy run along the right flank. An inch perfect ball into the “D” saw Rebecca McPeake place the ball out of reach of the advancing ‘keeper, to gain the lead once again at 2-1.

The last few minutes saw a resolute Ballymena team batten down the hatches and clear everything that was thrown at them.

Full time was greeted with jubilation by Ballymena, who earned the points with a superb team performance.

Senior League 2

Ballymena Men’s 1st XI (0) v (2) Cliftonville Men’s 1st XI: Cliftonville emerged 2-0 victors against Ballymena 1st XI on Saturday in a preview of New Year Days Sussex Regiment Cup final.

Cliftonville had the home side on the defensive from the start, repelling numerous attacks with relative ease, as Ballymena held strong and limited Cliftonville’s chances to a minimum. Scoreless at half time, Ballymena were able to regroup and came out the second half with more attacking purpose,

Allison skimmed the crossbar with a reverse stick strike early on to shake the visitors, but against the run of play, Cliftonville took the lead from a penalty corner, a drag flick finally breaking the dead lock with about 10 minutes to play.

This was a hammer blow to Ballymena who were beginning to tire and this ultimately showed as Cliftonville took all three points with a second penalty corner routine.

Looking ahead to the final, Ballymena will have to raise their game to stand any chance of lifting the trophy.