Ballymena Hockey Club ladies’ First XI’s promotion hopes suffered a blow on Saturday when they lost at home to Cookstown.
The Braid ladies were looking for a positive outcome but after some even exchanges of play in the opening minutes, Cookstown opened the scoring in only the sixth minute.
Shocked to be behind so quickly Ballymena worked hard to steady the nerves and a strong run from Emma Gillespie into the circle led to a penalty corner that Clare Gillespie duly despatched to level the score.
Ballymena were force to defend by further strong play from Cookstown but defensively Ballymena were up for the challenge, although the pressure was relentless and late in the half Cookstown again took the lead and the advantage into the break.
The second half saw possession and pressure change between the side with penalty corner chances for both team and excellent defending to prevent the other scoring.
Aiken gave Ballymena hope from the right flank, with Gillespie and Storey just unable to find the final telling pass.
In the final moments Logan saved to keep her side in with a chance but a late shot on goal from King was defended well by Cookstown to take the win.
Ballymena: J Logan(GK), S Morrison, V Hogg, A Crooks, A Logan, E King, H Taggart, C Gillespie (C), S Storey, E Gillespie, C McCracken, N Greer.
Ballymena II 3, Armagh II 0: The Seconds aimed to stretch their lead at the top of Junior 2 against Armagh at the Showgrounds on Saturday but a strong away side made life difficult for the Ballymena girls.
Throughout the first half Ballymena had several chances to open the scoring from open play and penalty corners but none of them were converted.
Into the second half and Armagh pushed forward but again strength in numbers at the back for Ballymena saw off the attacks and enabled Ballymena to counter with Lorna Murphy finally getting the opening goal for the home side.
Armagh’s midfield worked tirelessly to get on terms, but Ballymena’s constant pressure on the ball carrier reaped rewards as a left wing break found Kerry Aiken in the circle for the easiest of tap-ins for a 2-0 lead.
Towards the end, Aimee Logan worked her magic down the right flank and switched the ball to Lindsey McClintock on the left side of the circle, who finished neatly for a 3-0 victory.
The team would like to thank Joanne Logan and Hugh Ramsey for umpiring.
Seconds: L Hanna (Gk), K Kealey, A Harbinson, K McMaster, H Dickey, J Sutherland, L McClintock, L Logan, K Aiken, R Murphy, A Logan, L Murphy,
Randalstown IV 1, Ballymena III 2: Ballymena had the majority of possession in the first half and were unlucky on several occasions not to break the deadlock with narrow misses and several saves from the Randalstown keeper.
Ballymena were to rue not making the most of these chances when Randalstown were awarded a penalty corner in the last minutes of the first half which they duly converted.
Ballymena came out for the second half determined to even the score and their perseverance was rewarded when an excellent passing move from the back ending with a shot on goal from Emma Johnston which was guided in at the post by Rebecca McPeake.
Again Ballymena pressed the Randalstown defence who stood strong until Joann Lowry gave Ballymena a 2-1 lead with a strong strike from the top of the circle for what proved the winning goal.
Thirds: K. Richmond, J.Sutherland, R. Reid, L. McClintock, H. Dickey, N. Sloane, D. Lipsett, J. Lowry(c), E. Johnston, J. Duncan, C. Lorimer, V. Cooper, R. McPeake
Ballymena II 2, Bangor V 0: Strong defending by the visitors led Ballymena to switch tactics using short, quick passing to draw the Bangor keeper off his line and with 25 minutes gone Phil Nicholl opened the scoring with a flick to lift the ball into the goal. Continued pressure didn’t bring rewards and at the break Ballymena held a slender 1-0 lead.
Late in the game, further pressure from the home side led to a left flank break that saw McDonald drive into the circle a send a thunderous strike into the far corner to secure the points.
Ballymena: E Hampton, J Birrell, A Hanna(c), J Grimason, D McDowell, H Ramsey, J Russell, S Glass, D Allen, W Barr, S Gordon, K Murphy, P Nicholl, E Archer