Ballymena Hockey Club round-up: Men suffer setback against Portrush
BALLYMENA entertained local rivals Portrush at the Showgrounds on Saturday but succumbed to a bitterly disappointing 2-0 defeat.
Ballymena looked rather lethargic as play commenced while Portrush on the other hand seized the initiative with a goal in the opening minute, punishing a sloppy Ballymena defence.
The remainder of the first half saw prolonged periods of Portrush dominance with the home side offering little by way of resistance.
It was only a matter of time before the visitors extended their lead and the beleaguered Ballymena defence crumbled midway through the period, conceding a second.
It was a rather messy affair, first rebounding off the post and fouling in the Ballymena keeper’s pads then dropping out for an easy tap in.
Ballymena finally awoke from their slumber and mounted an offensive in the dying minutes of the half, indeed they came close to pulling one back with an Alex McKeown reverse stick shot but 0-2 it remained.
The second half was a very different affair though, with Ballymena emerging as the dominant force. Portrush were forced to defend time and time again to stave off a barrage of attacks form the hosts.
Unfortunately though, effort alone will not win points and Ballymena simply could not find the back of the net! The hosts were offered a glimmer of hope, towards full time, through a series of short corners but were denied, first by the Portrush keeper and then by the post from a Patrick McKeown drag flick.
Ballymena will focus on the positives as they take on Cliftonville in the Irish Hockey Challenge semi-final this Saturday - their second appearance at this stage of the competition in the last three years.
Ballymena: Eddie Hampton, Chris Hogg (capt), Andrew Bell, David McDonald, Andrew Shields, Andrew Crooks, Victor Orr, Patrick McKeown, Clive Fulton, Alex McKeown, Tim Lowry, Mark Allison.
Ballymena 4, North Down 3: Ballymena ladies emerged victors in what could be described as a thrilling and a times ill-tempered contest between two very evenly matched sides.
The visitors were afforded no less than two early strikes at the Ballymena goal, both of which were saved by an agile Emma Leslie.
On the counter and with some good running from the forwards Clare Gillespie’s inch perfect pass through to Natalie McMullan was timed to perfection as was McMullan’s strike which blazed past the Down keeper.
Down were in no mood to roll over though and a short time later they levelled from a break which caught the hosts’ defence off guard.
In response Ballymena tackled, battled and denied space in pursuit of their second goal and a few minutes later their diligence was rewarded when, from a penalty corner, a Morrison strike was deflected in off the Down keeper’s pad.
A familiar pattern was beginning to emerge here and again the visitors restored parity a short time later from a penalty corner of their own.
With 26 minutes of the first half gone, Down upped the ante and, much to Ballymena’s dismay but entirely with the run of play, the visitors snatched the lead 2-3.
It was Young then who intercepted a Down pass and laid it off perfectly for Logan to hammer it past the reach of the visitors’ keeper to restore parity at 3-3 at the end of a remarkable first half.
The second half started at the same frantic pace and Emma Leslie in particular saved the hosts from certain defeat with two wonderful saves from both open play and a penalty corner, while Sara Allen saved the hosts’ blushes by clearing off the line on two separate occasions.
Down didn’t have it all their own way though as Morrison came close from a penalty corner and Gillespie hit the post with an absolute rocket.
Victory was Ballymena’s though when Natalie McMullan hammered a speculative shot into the circle. The ball was deflected off a stick and into the net 4-3. Down protested but the goal stood with some two minutes to the final whistle.
Down countered in the hectic closing minutes and Emma Leslie was tested again in a one on one which she dispatched with her trademark efficiency to ensure the hosts secured their victory.
Ballymena: Leslie, Allen, Morrison, McBurney, Sutherland, McCracken, Dickson, Duncan, Linford, Gillespie, Logan, Young, McMullan, Kennedy, Player of the match Allen/Leslie.
Ballymena IV 1, South Antrim II 3: Ballymena Fourths played South Antrim Seconds on Friday night hoping to continue their winning streak from last weekend’s 3-2 victory over Mossley.
Cheered on by a hearty contingent of home supporters, it was a fairly even contest throughout the half with both sides cancelling out each other’s chances.
As the half played out though South were first to break the deadlock in the final minute, with numbers in the circle, to force the ball in for a 1-0 lead at the break.
At the restart, an almost unchallenged run by a South forward lead to a second goal for the visitors 0-2.
Ballymena did manage to carve out an opportunity for themselves though and Alison Marshall found the back of the net from a back post sweep to keep the hosts’ hopes alive at 1-2.
Two further chances came and went for the hosts but try as they might the net could not be found and as Ballymena pushed for the leveller they left themselves exposed at the back and with minutes to go South broke and, against the run of play, snatched the victory with a late third goal.
Thanks to Matthew O’Neill for umpiring for the team.
Fourths: Lauren Hanna (GK), Elaine Huey, Laura Logan, Alison Marshall, Karen Cherry, Judith Morrow, Imogen Magee, Nikki McClure, Joanne Hutchinson, Claire McKendry, Ruthy Andrews, Charlotte Andrews, Kathryn.
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Weather for Ballymena
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 9 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: South