Ballymena Hockey Club ladies’ First XI returned to the top of Senior League One with a 3-0 win at neighbours Ballyclare on Saturday.
Off the back of a great draw last week against Armagh, Ballymena hoped to continue this form away to Ballyclare on a wet afternoon start.
The first half started evenly with Ballymena defenders Morrison, Mc Burney, McCracken and Hogg and keeper Logan making sure there were no early goals from the home team with strong, confident play at the back.
Ballymena soon pushed on and changed the pace of their game with forwards Reynolds, Storey and Gillespie linking well to take the play to Ballyclare.
Reynolds had the ball in back of net twice in first half only to have them disallowed after the Umpire had already blown for short corner, but although frustrated Ballymena continued to work hard and won several penalty corners but could not convert! It was looking to be one of those days!
After encouraging words at half time from their Coach Ballymena came out for the second half and showed their opponents why they are pushing for promotion!
Gage, Crooks Taggart and Gillespie in midfield fought hard and won the 50/50 battles and provided their forwards with the service they needed to score.
Reynolds made no mistake with a one on one with the keeper and fired home for the lead of the match 1-0.
Forcing Ballyclare into defensive mode, Ballymena struck for a second time, with a similar scenario to the first goal, as Reynolds again, rounded the defender and keeper for a reverse stick shot high into net and 2-0.
In the last ten minutes of the game Ballymena had almost all of the play and several penalty corners followed, with pinpoint execution Morrison slipped ball to Clare Gillespie who fired across goal for the waiting Reynolds to deflect the ball into net for a well deserved hat trick and three more points for her team!
Ballymena: J Logan (GK), S Morrison, C McCracken, G McBurney, A Crooks, E King, S Gage, C Gillespie (C), R Reynolds, A Logan, E Gillespie, Z Dickson, V Hogg, H Taggart.
Raphoe 2, Ballymena II 1: The Ladies 2nd XI travelled away to Donegal on Saturday to play Raphoe 1sts in the first round of the McConnell Shield, a team four leagues above Ballymena in Senior 2!
It certainly wasn’t a comfortable start for the travellers as within minutes Raphoe had blasted the ball into the Ballymena net for a 1-0 lead.
Fearing the worst Ballymena battened down the hatches and defended with strength and resilience as Raphoe piled on the pressure but goalkeeper and defenders were up for the challenge!
Ballymena did equalise with Greer scoring from a rebounded save at a penalty corner, only to see Raphoe take the lead again from a slick right wing move to make it 2-1 at the interval.
The visitors came out strong for the second half, with Aiken, Logan and Murphy leading the line and taking the attack to Raphoe but unfortunately the chances went begging.
As the half progressed Raphoe were on the defensive and made it really difficult for Ballymena to break through and although delighted to keep a clean sheet Ballymena were unable to find the elusive equaliser to force the match into extra time
Seconds: L Hanna(GK), A Harbinson, N Greer(C), H Dickey, K Kealey, S Reid, E Clarke, L Logan, A Logan, N McMullan, K Aiken, R Murphy.
The Randalstown Fourths v Balymena Thirds match was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at the Antrim Forum.
Newcastle were unable to field a team and forfeited the match to Ballymena Fourths.