Ballymena Hockey Club’s ladies’ First XI continue to blaze a trail in the early weeks of the season with another brace of wins in the Senior Cup and league.
Mary Glass’s girls continued their defence of the Senior Cup with a 5-1 thumping of Cookstown in midweek, followed by a 2-0 win over Victorians in the league on Saturday.
Cookstown 1, Ballymena 5: In a re-match of last year’s cup final, Ballymena took to the water based pitch like ducks to water and within 3 minutes, Reynolds slipped the ball to Gillespie who was unmarked in the circle, with the deflected shot lobbing the keeper for a 1-0 lead.
Ballymena were awarded a corner after relentless pressure and Morrison rattled the back board after a slip pass from Reynolds; training ground corner practice working perfectly.
There was no way back for Cookstown from here, as Ballymena continued to pile on the pressure with midfield breaks from Gage, Crooks and King proving a formidable force, playing Reynolds in to square the ball for Gillespie to find the net once again and Ballymena’s third.
Stephanie Storey scored shortly after proving the strongest player in the goal mouth to slot the ball past a despairing Cookstown keeper, to take a commanding 4-0 lead at the break.
Cookstown came out a more confident side at the start of the second half and after being awarded a penalty corner the home side took their chance and scored, beating the unlucky Logan who had been superb throughout the match with some fantastic saves.
Ballymena again denied Cookstown any kind of a hold on the game with their fifth goal as a Reynolds shot was deflected into the net from Storey’s stick.
This win secures Ballymena a semi-final place with the final group match tonight (Tuesday) at the Showgrounds against Armagh at 7:15pm to decide their opponents.
Ballymena: J Logan (GK), S Morrison, C McCracken, G McBurney, A Crooks, E King, S Gage, C Gillespie (c), R Reynolds, S Storey, R Murphy, E Gillespie, K Young.
Ballymena 2, Victorians 0: Victorians started well putting the home side under pressure but the experienced Ballymena defence shone through squashing every shot and breakaway move with good tackling and communication.
Ballymena counter attacked time and time again with pace from Ellen king, who was finally rewarded, when she scored with a pass from Storey in front of keeper where the schoolgirl kept her composure and coolly slotted the ball past the keeper.
The second half proved a midfield battle and Vics were awarded several penalty corners only for their shots to find Ballymena sticks and Keeper Logan’s pads.
At the other end Ballymena were awarded a penalty flick when a Vics defender made error on the goal line, Crooks was denied her moment of glory by the right hand post, to make matters worse for the home side!
The last ten minutes belonged to Ballymena and up stepped Storey in the last moments of the game to connect and make it a 2-0 victory for the Ballymena girls.
Ballymena: J Logan (GK), S Morrison, S Allen, G McBurney, A Crooks, E King, K Allen, S Gage, Z Dickson, C Gillespie (c), R Reynolds, S Storey, R Murphy, E Gillespie.
Portadown II 1, Ballymena II 2: The game started at a fast pace with Ballymena on the attack and it was the visitors who opened the scoring with a tap in for Aimee Logan at the back post.
Portadown counter attacked throughout the half but the strong defence of Ballymena saw off any potential chances, even turning defence into attack from a Portadown penalty corner, where the Ballymena clearance found Aimee Logan in the Portadown circle who neatly finished making it 2-0 at half time.
The opposition came back after half time with a penalty corner strike to make it 2-1, but Ballymena still had the edge throughout the half, always looking the most likely to score with Murphy having a shot cleared off the line by the Portadown keeper.
Ballymena IV 1, South Antrim IV 1: Both teams started the game in an attacking mood and some last gasp defence was required to keep the score at 0-0 in the early stages. Midway through the first half a few minor errors allowed South Antrim to take the lead.
Ballymena restarted with a higher tempo playing some nice hockey and were rewarded with a goal following strong pressure from midfield. The pass into the circle was finished off by Natasha Blair to equal the score at 1-1.
The team would like to thank Rebekah Reynolds for umpiring.
Fourths: E Robinson, N Ford, R Barr, C McKernan, J McLarnon, C Lorimer, N Blair, J McDowell, C Galbraith, R Watt, C McCombe, S Lyle, L McClintock.
Ballymena 1, Parkview 1: Ballymena Men’s 1st XI hosted Parkview in their second game of the Sussex Regiment cup at the Showgrounds on Saturday.
An early lead was established by the home side with a great touch from Andrew Lorimer following a Craig Davis cross into the circle.
Matthew O’Neill added to the early lead with a second for Ballymena to cap off an impressive first half against an unusually subdued Parkview side.
However after the half time break Ballymena were caught out at the back allowing Parkview to score and give them a chance to get back into the game.
As the half progressed Parkview fell foul of some ill-discipline and Ballymena were quick to capitalise, adding a third when Clive Fulton converted a penalty stroke, followed by Chris Aiken poaching a fourth to seal the victory and points for Ballymena 4-1.
The team would like to thank Phil Moody for umpiring.
Ballymena: E Hampton (GK), A. Crooks, D McDonald, A Bell, C Davis, V Orr, K Murphy, A Lorimer, M O’Neill, D Bradley, A Linford, C Aiken, C Fulton.
Ballymena II 2, Portadown IV 4: The Men’s 2nd XI finally got their league season up and running with a home game to Portadown 4th XI on Saturday.
Ballymena, fielding four new players, certainly had most of the first half possession and position and this soon lead to the opening goal for seasoned forward Phil Nicholl, assisted by Davis.
A second soon followed from Ken Murphy after strong play from the back by Hampton.
Ballymena restarted the second half again under pressure, but ably dealing with the quick breaks of the Portadown midfield.
However, two defensive mistakes allowed Portadown right back into the game within minutes of each other to level the game at 2-2. D
espite Ballymena’s best efforts of Glass and Cole in the middle and the loss of Davis midway through the half, Ballymena just couldn’t keep pace with the waves of attack from the buoyant visitors.
In the last 10 minutes they added 2 more open play goals, that even the resilient Birrell couldn’t keep out, taking the win 4-2.
It was a tough defeat for the home side, but one that will strengthen the resolve especially after an excellent first half.
The team would like to thanks Mary Glass, Rebekah Reynolds and Joanne Logan for sharing the umpiring duties.
Seconds: J Birrell (GK), A Hanna (C), E Archer, E Hampton, J. Grimasson, S Glass, T Cole, P Moody, S Gordon, D Bradley, J Hampton, P Nicholl, C Davis, K Murphy.