Two draws in league and cup competitions helped maintain Ballymena Hockey Club ladies’ First XI’s unbeaten start to the season last week.
The Braid girls booked their place in the semi-final of the Senior Cup as group winners with a draw against Armagh in midweek and followed that up with a 3-3 league draw at Knock on Saturday.
Ballymena 2, Armagh 2: The visit of last year’s relegated Premier side Armagh to the Showgrounds was always going to be an incredibly tough match for Ballymena as both teams met to decide winner and runner up positions of the group stages.
Ballymena had to absorb a lot of pressure to keep this skilful side at bay, until after several break-a-ways and penalty corners Armagh were finally able to convert with accurate shot on goal for a 1-0 lead
Ballymena found some form, late on in first half, resulting in penalty corner with a Morrison strike rebounding off the keeper which fell into the path of Clare Gillespie who was able to slot the ball in bottom corner to bring the match all square at the break.
In the second half, Armagh continued to apply further pressure on Ballymena’s defence and following a penalty corner conversion they were back in the lead 2-1.
Ballymena fought bravely and were rewarded in the dying seconds of game when Stephanie Storey’s shot was deflected into the goal for a draw which sees top their group on goal difference.
Ballymena: J Logan (GK), S Morrison, C McCracken, G McBurney, A Crooks, E King, S Gage, C Gillespie (C), R Reynolds, S Storey, Z Dickson, E Gillespie, K Young.
Knock 3, Ballymena 3: Ballymena went in front as midfielder Gage initiated a break sending the ball wide to Reynolds in space on right, who ran up the wing to slot the ball back to Gage in circle who selflessly squared ball to Gillespie to beat the keeper for a 1-0 lead.
However the match was soon all square due to break down in play and unfortunate bounce of the ball, which found a Knock player who volleyed the ball into the goal.
Unfortunate lapses in Ballymena’s play in the second half allowed Knock to convert two identical goals in quick succession for a 3-1 advantage.
In the last ten minutes determined centre back Emma Gillespie broke from defence and running into the opposition circle coolly slotted the ball past the keeper to claw a goal back at 2-3.
Several shots on goal from Ballymena followed, before Reynolds received the ball in circle and using her strength fought passed the Knock defender and reversed a shot into the goal to equalise at 3-3
Ballymena: J Logan (GK), S Morrison, C McCracken, G McBurney, A Crooks, E King, S Gage, Z Dickson, C Gillespie (C), R Reynolds, S Storey, E Gillespie, K Young.
Belfast Harlequins II 0, Ballymena II 5: Within the first 10 minutes of play, Laura Logan had swept the ball past the Quins keeper for a 1-0 lead.
Lorna Murphy was then able to slot the ball under the Harlequin’s keeper, giving Ballymena a 2-0 lead at half time.
In the second half, from a short corner, the ball was pushed to Murphy, who slipped it left to Nicola Greer and passing the defender, struck the ball finding the back board for 3-0.
A fourth goal soon followed, after a strong run from Aimee Logan down the right side, with a cross into the circle to find Stephanie Storey to strike the ball past the stranded keeper. Moments from the restart, Ballymena had turned the ball over again and this time it was Storey who turned provider for Kirsty McMaster to make 5-0 for Ballymena!
Seconds: L Hanna(GK), A Harbinson, N Greer(C), H Dickey, K Kealey, L McClintock, K McMaster, E Clark, L Murphy, L Logan, A Logan, N McMullan, S Storey.
Ballymena III 1, North Down IV 0: The decisive goal came as Alison Marshall shot strongly at goal and Laura Logan provided the finishing touch, ending up along with the opposition keeper and ball, in the back of the goal for a 1-0 lead.
This was a resilient performance by the thirds against a very experienced North Down side and testament to the team’s hard work and effort at training.
Thirds: L Hanna (GK), D Lipsett , N Sloane, K Johnston, R Reid, J Lowry (C), C Lorimer, E Johnston, J Kennedy, L Logan, A Marshall, L McClintock,
Ballymena 0, Cliftonville 2: After a scoreless first half, the game swung in favour of Cliftonville with a penalty stroke, awarded for the ball striking the unlucky Crooks on the goal line.
Cliftonville sealed the victory late in the game with a disputed goal, following a suspected back stick in the build up. Ballymena can take confidence from this game as the season moves forward into the league format.
Ballymena: E Hampton(GK), C Hogg(C), A Crooks, D McDonald, A Bell, C Fulton, A McKelvey, V Orr, M Allison, M O’Neill, G Tumilson, A Lorimer, A McKeown, T Lowry.
Ballymena II 3, NICS IV 3: Midway through the first half a strong period from Service brought 2 short corners, where the away team took the lead at the second attempt. Ballymena determination brought the score level again in minutes with persistence from Moody on the left flank playing in ken Murphy to make it 1-1 but before the break service took a 2-1 lead from open play.
With around 15 minutes to go Ken Murphy again levelled the score from a shot inside the circle deflecting into the goal for 2-2.
Pushing forward for the win Ballymena again fell foul of Service’s quick forward play and despite keeper Birrell’s best efforts scored a third moments later for 3-2. Ballymena’s luck seemed to have ran out until Chris Aiken with minutes on the clock final struck the home side third equaliser!
Ballymena: J Birrell (GK), A Hanna(C), E Archer, E Hampton, J Grimasson, S Glass, T Cole, P Moody, S Gordon, D Bradley, M O’Neill, P Nicholl, K Murphy, D McDowell.