Ballymena Hockey Club ladies’ First XI’s hopes of emulating their Senior CUp success of last season were ended at the semi-final stage on Sunday.
The Braid ladies suffered a 3-2 defeat the hands of a Dungannon side who had also beaten Ballymena in the league a few weeks agao.
Rebekah Reynolds opened the scoring for Ballymena after a quick break in the first few minutes of the game to give Ballymena the dream start!
With much of the play, Ballymena were unlucky to give away a penalty corner that Dungannon duly converted to equalise. Pressing on Dungannon took the lead before the half 2-1.
After the restart Dungannon added to their lead with a third, but Ballymena stuck to the task, with strong midfield play.
Quick interpassing brought Ballymena rewards when Reynolds played in Clare Gillespie for a reverse strike that deflected in off the keeper to make it 2-3!
Ballymena pushed on and won several short corners, but failed to convert as Dungannon wobbled! At the last gasp Ballymena won a penalty corner and Sara Allen forced the save from the shot.
On the full time whistle, Dungannon held out for the win and a place in the final.
Ballymena 2, Larne 0: Ballymena hosted Larne on Friday night at the showgrounds in a rearranged fixture to accommodate Sunday’s Senior Cup semi-final and after a slight drop in recent form Ballymena were hoping to answer their critics and get back to winning ways!
Starting the stronger team Ballymena frustrated Larne early on with their quick passing game and it wasn’t long before Reynolds had her first chance at the top of the circle only to have her shot saved by the diving Larne keeper!
Ballymena were rarely troubled at the back during the first half as the defence moved the ball quickly and worked tirelessly to disrupt the Larne attacks and turn the ball over in midfield.
Late in the half, the dead lock was finally broken when Clare Gillespie ran into the circle unchallenged and slotted the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Throughout the half, Ballymena were awarded several penalty corners and were unlucky not to convert, but certainly need to be more clinical in front of goal.
The second half proved to be very similar with Logan, Storey, Reynolds and Gillespie all terrorising the circle through the strength that came from midfield. Crooks, Gage and Gillespie linked well together and proved just too strong for their Larne counter parts.
Midway through the half, Reynolds received a great pass from Logan and turning on her marker fired home for 2-0!
The last ten minutes of the match was again a bit one sided, with Larne in damage limitation mode as Ballymena continued to batter their defences! And hold out they did as Ballymena ran out victors 2-0 at the final whistle.
Ballymena: J. Logan (GK), S. Morrison, V. Hogg, A. Crooks, S. Gage, A. Logan, A. Logan jnr, C.Gillespie (C), R. Reynolds, S. Storey, E. Gillespie, G. McBurney, C. McCracken,
Ballymena II 2, Randalstown III 0: The Ladies 2nds hosted neighbours Randalstown in their local derby on Saturday, with several league positions separating the teams, Ballymena were hopeful in extending their position at the top!
Randalstown, though, had different ideas and made life difficult for the home side throughout the first half, as they tried to settle into their rhythm.
Logan and Murphy were stopped several times as they ran at the ‘town defence, but Ballymena kept the pressure on through tireless work in the midfield.
Finally, well into the half the breakthrough came with Ballymena taking a well-deserved 1-0 lead just before the break, from a penalty corner that saw a neat exchange between Aiken and Greer, who pushed the ball into the corner to beat the keeper.
Composure in possession was what was called for from Ballymena and with only minutes gone the home side extended their lead to 2-0 after a goal-mouth scramble from an initial shot by Amy Logan that saw Emma Clarke mop up on the rebound!
Randalstown continued the fight, but Ballymena now had the edge and could have scored again with further chances going just wide of the goal.
Kerry Aiken and Amy Logan found the holes in the ‘town defence but couldn’t make the final pass tell and at the full time whistle Ballymena took the points with a solid 2-0 victory, extending their lead yet again at the top of Junior 2!
Seconds: L.Hanna(GK), A. Harbinson, N. Greer(C), H. Dickey, L. McClintock, L. Murphy, E. Clarke, L. Logan, A. Logan, K. Aiken, R. Murphy, N. Rea, K. McMaster
Ards III 2, Ballymena III 1: With the Ards ladies sitting in second place in the league, the visitors knew this match would be a hard encounter, however Ballymena were up for the challenge with one of their strongest selections this season!
Joanne Fulton and Jenny Sutherland paired the central defence and looked solid. Rachel Reid and Sarah Montgomery quelled the attacks from the flanks, with Kari Richmond steadfast in goal.
However, following on from a quick passage of play, Ards found themselves one goal to the good, after a number of minor errors from the Ballymena defence.
Ballymena worked hard to get back into the game with Lorimer, Kernohan and McPeake, making the home defence work hard to prevent an equaliser, with several Ballymena chances going wide and others saved by the Ards ‘keeper.
Lowry, Johnston and Duncan commanded the mid-field, making strong tackles when required and distributing the ball well in attack, which finally brought about the equaliser just before half-time, when a shot on goal was mis-kicked by the home ‘keeper, with McPeake first to react and drive the ball into the net.
Early in the second half key Ards substitutes were used in an effort to shore up the game and seek a win.
Their second goal came with 15 minutes to go with a well taken strike. However the visitors showed remarkable strength, pressing high in the Ards half to turn the ball over and create several further chances.
Young Jessica Kennedy came on to gain some vital experience and mixed it well but couldn’t help turn the game, with the final score 2-1 in favour of Ards
Thirds: K. Richmond (GK), R. Reid, J. Sutherland, J. Fulton, S. Montgomery, J. Lowry, J. Duncan. Johnston, R. McPeake, C. Lorimer, J. Kernohan, J. Kennedy.
Cliftonville 5, Ballymena 2: Ballymena travelled to Cliftonville on Saturday for a tough test, with both teams sitting at the top of Senior 2.
Ballymena opened the scoring with a penalty stroke converted by Andrew Lorimer, but Cliftonville were quick to reply with a fortunate deflection from a penalty corner. Cliftonville took the lead at the start of the second half with another clinical penalty corner.
Ballymena then equalised with a deft touch from Craig Davis. Ballymena looking to press on, left themselves open to the counter-attack and were punished severely, as Cliftonville won a series of penalty corners!
These were duly dispatched and the match finished 5-2 in favour of a well drilled Cliftonville team.
Ballymena: J. Birrell (GK), A. Crooks, D. McDonald, A. Linford, E. Archer, T. Lowry, A. Bell, A McKelvey, M. O’Neill, A. McKeown, A. Lorimer, C. Davis, D. Bradley, K. Murphy, G. Tumilson.
PSNI were unable to field a team and duly forfeited the match and 3 points to Ballymena.