Ballymena Hockey Club ladies’ First XI suffered defeat at the hands of Dungannon for the third time this season on Saturday.
The Braid girls lost 2-0 in COunty Tyrone to put a dent in their hopes of a high finish in the league with Dungannon extending their advantage over the Braid girls in the table to seven points.
Elsewhere for the club sides in action, there was a double dose of ‘derby’ action with both Ballymena Seconds and Thirds taking on opposition in the form of teams from neighbouring Randalstown.
The Second XI tussle failed to provide a winner with a late Kerry Aiken equaliser earning Ballymena a 1-1 draw.
The Third XI enjoyed the sweet taste of victory in their meeting with Randalstown Fourths, with Sarah Montgomery’s goal proving the difference between the two sides.
The men’s Second XI travelled to Stormont to take on Civil Service Fourths and despite a goal from William Barr, they returned home defeated by the odd goal in three.
Dungannon 2, Ballymena 0: In a repeat on this year’s cup semi-final Ballymena had a point to prove against a team who had narrowly beaten them twice this season.
The early stages of the match were end to end with Ballymena gaining the upper hand with their quick passing and determination in midfield, which seemed to shock Dungannon.
Ballymena’s forward line of Storey, Young and Logan worked tirelessly and were unlucky not to convert on several occasions.
However, Dungannon found their rhythm towards the end of the second half only to be thwarted by a steadfast defence of McCracken Greer, Gillespie and Hogg who remained calm and confident to deal with their opponent’s attacks. Logan in goals pulled off fantastic saves to keep the score 0-0 going into half time in stormy weather conditions.
Ballymena sensing this could be their day to execute revenge piled the pressure on Dungannon with Taggart and Reynolds keeping the mid field battle on their terms.
However a long ball through to a skilful Dungannon forward was the undoing of the Ballymena girls as the home side took a 1-0 lead.
The goal against the run of play seemed to knock the wind out of Ballymena side, who found it difficult to get back on terms, despite efforts from Storey.
Before the end Dungannon doubled the score in an untidy goal mouth scramble leaving Ballymena no chance of even a consolation goal.
It was a disappointing result for the Ballymena side who had worked hard all game but fell foul of a team that took the few chances they had.
Ballymena: J. Logan(GK), V. Hogg, N. Greer, C. McCracken, E. Gillespie, J. Duncan, H. Taggart, E. King, R. Reynolds, C. Gillespie(C), K. Young, S. Storey, A. Logan.
Randalstown II 1, Ballymena II 1: The Ladies 2nds travelled to Antrim Forum for their local derby with Randalstown and shared the points following a 2nd half opening goal from a short corner for the home side to make a very nervy end for Ballymena desperate not to drop 3 points!
True to form, and in keeping with similar heroics in recent weeks, Kerry Aiken saved the day again with a last minute equaliser to keep Ballymena ahead in their title race with Harlequins with only 2 games remaining.
Seconds: L. Hanna (Gk), K. Kealey, A. Harbinson,H. Dickey, N. Rea, J. Sutherland, S. Reid, L. McClintock, L. Logan, K. Aiken, R. Murphy, L. Murphy, E. Clarke, G. McBurney,
Ballymena III 1, Randalstown IV 0: Ballymena went in to the home leg of their local derby hopeful of 3 points to strengthen their position in the league.
From the first whistle they put the Randalstown defence under immense pressure with several shots on goal from open play and penalty corners going just wide of the post.
Randalstown’s defence remained strong and at the end of a first half, where Ballymena enjoyed much of the possession and Randalstown failed to threaten the home sides goal the score was 0-0.
The second half wasn’t as one sided as Ballymena pushed for a goal.
Randalstown were able to counter attack but Ballymena’s passing game proved too good for them and the dead lock was eventually broken when Emma Johnston made an excellent run down the right hand side delivering a perfect pass to Sarah Montgomery who guided the ball into the back of the net.
As the match played out Ballymena’s defence was able to close down and further Randalstown attacks and take the much deserved points.
This was an excellent performance from the entire team in extremely testing conditions and a special thanks to Laura Logan for umpiring.
Thirds: K. Richmond, D. Lipsett, J. Sutherland, R. Reid, L. McClintock, J. Lowry(C), C. Law, E. Johnston, J. Kernohan, S. Montgomery, E. Anderson, E. Johnston
NICS IV 2, Ballymena II 1: The Men’s 2nds travelled to Stormont hoping to improve on a draw in the home fixture earlier in the season.
However, the water-based pitch was a big advantage to ‘Service’, who put Ballymena under pressure from the start.
Ballymena weathered the early storm and the fact they didn’t concede any early goals gave Ballymena the chance to play at their opponents as they did the previous week.
Davis linked well with the forward line of Nicholl, Murphy and Glass to give Service some early trouble.
But it was the home side that broke the deadlock from a quick open play move 15 minutes into the game.
Ballymena continued to probe the home defence finding space but again strong defending in the Service circle kept the ball out of the goal.
With 10 minutes to go until the half-time the break Service doubled their lead from a skilful deflection.
Undeterred Ballymena continued to work the ball across the pitch and into the corners attempting to lure out the Service defenders.
Minutes before the break Ballymena pulled back a goal from a quickly taken free that saw the ball deflected to William Barr to slot home at the post for 2-1.
Into the second half and with Ballymena playing with the driving rain, Service found much of the play and the elements against them.
Ballymena pushed time and again for the equaliser, with Nicholl twice putting the ball over the bar from close range and Murphy, Glass and O’Neill unable to take their chances when they presented themselves!
Even several short corners for Ballymena just wouldn’t find the net as the visitors’ frustration grew.
With conditions getting worse and time running out Ballymena held the play in the Service third for much of the last 5 minutes but still the goal didn’t come and at the final whistle Service collected all 3 points much to their relief.
Ballymena would like to thank Dave Bradley for travelling to umpire.
Ballymena: E. Hampton, J. Birrell, A. Hanna(c), D. McDowell, A. Linford, C. Davis, V. Orr, S. Glass, G. Tumilson, W. Barr, S. Gordon, M. O’Neill, E. Archer, K. Murphy.