BALLYMENA Hockey Club men’s First XI recorded a 3-2 win over Parkview on Saturday at the Showgrounds, in their first match for some four weeks.
This was in stark contrast to Parkview boys who had just played their final ‘Sussex Regiment’ match on Tuesday, to give them a slight advantage in terms of match readiness.
The festive season seemed to have taken its toll on the Ballymena squad as they got off to a very shaky start.
It was no surprise then that the hosts relinquished a soft goal as the first half neared its conclusion. This seemed to be just the ticket to wake the sleeping dog though and with only seconds spare, in what could only be described as a dreary first half, the partnership of Andrew Bell and Tory Alexander created an opportunity out of nothing and it was Alexander who levelled for the hosts from the resultant short corner.
The hosts had found their feet now as the second half commenced and by controlling possession and making their opponents work for every yard Parkview were eventually worn into submission. Tory Alexander scored again with another drag flick and Alex McKeown put the match beyond the reach of a beleaguered Parkview from another short corner 3-1.
Credit to Parkview though who did muster the strength and determination for one last ditch attempt at goal to pull one back, four minutes from time, which slightly unnerved the home side as they were sure the visitors were down and out 3-2.
Ballymena: Eddie Hampton, Chris Hogg (capt), Andrew Bell, Andrew Shields, Andrew Crooks, Tory Alexander, Clive Fulton, Victor Orr, Alex McKeown, Tim Lowry, Matt Corbett, David Holmes, Mark Allison, Matt O’Neill
Ballymena II 2, Kilkeel III 5: Ballymena Men’s 2nd XI played their first game of the New Year at home to Kilkeel 3rds on Saturday, but a slow start by the home side played right into the hands of the visitors who are pushing for promotion.
Within the first eight minutes of play Ballymena found themselves two goals down, as the visitors were sharper to the ball and swifter to use it in a game where the home side’s initial strategy was largely ineffectual.
Finally though, Ballymena did manage to pull one back when the sheer physicality of a Lorimer run down the left side left caught the Kilkeel defence off guard. An inch perfect pass to Moody afforded him the opportunity to deflect the ball into the net past the stranded Kilkeel keeper.
Unfortunately Ballymena’s hunger for a second goal was their undoing as, with numbers committed up front, they left themselves exposed in defence and despite the best efforts of Birrel and Donald, Kilkeel were afforded the opportunity to score again to leave the hosts with a 3-1 deficit at the break.
A much brighter start to the second half saw Ballymena in the ascendancy, with Gibson and Murphy working hard to create chances. Kilkeel still posed a threat though and soon stretched their lead with two further goals mid-way through the half.
Ballymena reshuffled in an attempt to inject some pace with McDonald moving to centre forward. This reaped immediate dividends as the latter found the back of the Kilkeel net with a rasping drive from a short corner, to throw the home side a lifeline!
More short corners followed in quick succession but unfortunately neither McDonald nor Lorimer could find the connection that would trouble the visitor’s keeper and the score remained 5-2 for Kilkeel.
Ballymena would like to thanks umpires Davy Lorimer and Davy Holmes and look forward to their next game away to South Antrim 4ths next week.
Seconds: James Birrell(GK), Alister Hanna(Capt), Dave Bradley, David McDonald, Ken Murphy, Al Donald, Aaron Murphy, Mark Monteith, Paul McDowell, Andy Lorimer, Matt O’Neill, Andy Boyd, Jack Gibson, Phil Moody, Ethan Archer.
Larne 2, Ballymena 3: This was always going to be an enthralling encounter with both sides so evenly matched and it didn’t disappoint.
Larne started on the front foot with good movement, accurate passing and created several early chances which resulted in them opening the scoring after only ten minutes of play.
Goalkeeper Emma Leslie was called upon to keep the visitors in this tie as Larne were in no mood to ease the pressure on the Ballymena defence.
Step up Lauren Kennedy who, against the run of play and with a cool head, found a leak in the Larne defence. Kennedy collected a through ball, skilfully rounded a defender, picked her spot and delicately pushed the ball beyond the reach of the host’s keeper to level the score.
Having said this, a defensive lapse allowed the hosts to snatch the lead again when the ball was deflected off the visitor’s keeper 2-1.
As the first half drew to a close a late penalty corner for the visitors offered them the opportunity to draw level. Susanne Morrison flicked the ball to Clare Gillespie who drove it hard into Becky Reynolds who rounded the keeper and with a reverse stick shot pulled the sides level at 2-2 going into half time.
The defining moment in this game came when, towards the end of the second half and following a period of sustained pressure from Ballymena, a Larne defender stopped ball on line with her foot.
A penalty stroke was awarded and the mantle fell to Clare Gillespie who, with composure and accuracy, slotted the ball into bottom right hand corner of the net to seal the victory for Ballymena.
Ballymena: Emma Leslie, Sara Allen, Catherine McCracken, Grace McBurney, Susanne Morrison, Zoe Dickson, Jessica Duncan, Becky Reynolds, Clare Gillespie, Leah Paul, Lauren Kennedy, Natalie McMullan, Becky Linford
Larne II 0, Ballymena II 1: Ballymena got off to an impressive start against Larne 2’s with most of the action focused on the host’s goal line.
Chances were limited for the visitors and although they dominated a fiercely competitive first half they lacked the incisiveness in front of goal and a goal looked increasingly unlikely as play continued and so the score remained 0-0 at half time.
It was left to Sharon Reid, for the visitors, to conjure up a match winning opportunity. Reid won several frees outside the Larne ‘D’ and her persistence resulted in Ballymena being awarded a penalty corner.
Finally, a well-timed inch perfect pass provided Reid with ample time strike at goal. An unstoppable strike thundered into the back board.
The remainder of the game played out with Ballymena applying pressure on a beleaguered Larne defence although the score remained a 1-0.