BELFAST HARLEQUINS 7 – 1 ANTRIM
Antrim travelled to Belfast to play Harlequins in their Premier League match on Saturday and their miserable season continued when they were decisively beaten 7-1. Missing at least eight players, some with injuries, teenager Nathan Murdock made his first ever appearance on the team along with the recall of Lyle Kane and David Mailey after several seasons on the Seconds. With so many missing regulars Captain Dean Wilson had to dig deep to get a team together to fulfil this fixture and he was forced to play several of his more experienced players out of their regular positions. Antrim were first to attack when Nathan Murdock’s pass was swept into the circle by Thomas Allen to see Ryan McCrea’s shot blocked and the ball cleared away by the goalkeeper. Then a 7th minute break down the left saw Chris Wilson’s pass just beat the onrushing Allen and the chance was lost. Antrim were holding their own as the game progressed with Dean Wilson linking well with Alex McBride and Curtis Murray to feed the ball through to forwards McCrea, Allen and Kane. Harlequins won several penalty corners in quick succession but goalkeeper Andy Heatley confidently blocked them all and cleared the ball away. Antrim won their first penalty corner in the 10th minute but Dean Wilson’s drag flick was palmed away by the goalkeeper. Harlequins pressure, a lot of it was self inflicted by Antrim’s poor passing and positional play, saw them winning several more penalty corners all of which were blocked by good Heatley saves or the shots going wide as the game progressed. A 23rd minute Harlequins penalty corner was cleared off the line by Chris Wilson but the ball was quickly played back on to a defender’s foot to win another penalty corner. Heatley saved the fierce shot but a Harlequin’s forward reacted first to slam the ball back into the net for the opening goal. Three minutes later they scored again when a quick free allowed the right winger’s cross to be swept into the net past the helpless Heatley by an unmarked forward. Then in a 30th minute Antrim attack a bouncing ball across the circle was knocked goalwards by McBride but lady luck wasn’t on his side and it just skimmed the wrong side of the crossbar. McBride broke free down the left into the circle and played the ball through to Dean Wilson who beat a couple of defenders to fire the ball into the Harlequins net to reduce the arrears in the 33rd minute. Harlequins were awarded a disputed penalty corner in first half added time and the ball was belted into the net to give the home team the 3-1 interval lead. Straight from the restart Harlequins shocked the sleeping Antrim team by scoring in the first minute to increase their lead and as if paralysed in disbelief Antrim were unable to stop them scoring twice more in the next three minutes to take the 5-1 lead and end this game as a contest. Antrim slowly recovered to resist their opponents but with their bad tactical and slow thinking play Harlequins were able to score twice more to run out as easy 7-1 winners. This week Antrim will play Civil Service at Stormont with a 2.30pm start in their penultimate league match.
Antrim Squad:- A Heatley, D Wilson, C Wilson, N Murdock, C Murray, D Mailey, A McBride, R McCrea, R Watt, L Kane and T Allen.
ANTRIM SECONDS 4 – 3 MOSSLEY Thirds
Antrim Seconds entertained near neighbours Mossley Thirds in a Junior League match at the Paddy Marks Arena on Saturday. While the Antrim team dilly dallied in their attacking build up the visitor’s quicker and more direct play paid off when they shocked the Antrim team by taking a 3-0 half time lead. They scored their first goal when an Antrim defender was caught in possession to allow the Mossley forward the time and space to step into the circle and crash the ball high into the net past the helpless Antrim goalkeeper Matty Whiteside in the 17th minute. The ball from the first meaningful shot from an Antrim forward crashed off the post and deflected away to safety in the 20th minute. Antrim squandered a couple of penalty corners shots and the ball was cleared up the left where the skilful winger was allowed to run the ball along the bye line before laying off a perfect pass for the centre forward to slam it into the net for the 2-0 lead in the 22nd minute. Three minutes later in a break out from deep in their own half the ball was quickly played into the Antrim circle and swept under the diving Whiteside into the net to give them the 3-0 lead. Antrim had several shots on goal before the half time whistle but the Mossley goalkeeper was there to save and kick the ball away to safety. Antrim’s half time team talk saw several positional changes and from a more positive attitude they won a penalty corner in the first minute of the half. The ball rebounded from the penalty corner shot, off the goalkeeper and in the ensuing scramble it was forced back into the net to reduce the arrears. Antrim won another corner in the 38th minute but the goalbound shot was too high and the free out was awarded to Mossley. As the game progressed Antrim slowly improved and although the Mossley team were tiring they were still doggedly hanging on to their lead. Then in the 60th minute from a break down the right Kane fired the ball into the goalmouth where it was somehow slammed into the net to bring the score back to 3-2 in Mossley’s favour. Antrim increased the pressure and won several corners all of which were cleared away. Then in the 65th minute the ball was driven in to the Mossley goalmouth where Kane somehow pulled it back from under the goalkeeper’s pads to find the space to scoop it up back into the net for the equaliser. Then in the 68th minute the Antrim pressure finally told when the ball deflected off a defender in the circle for Wilson to drive it into the net under the diving goalkeeper to complete this remarkable recovery and give Antrim the 4-3 victory and three valuable points to lift them off the bottom of the table. Team thanks go to Gary Molloy and Stuart Campbell for their fair and expert umpiring of this game. The team have no match arranged for this week.
CIVIL SERVICE 4 – 2 ANTRIM THIRDS
Antrim travelled to Stormont on Saturday to play against their bogey team Civil Service Fourths and after last week’s win against Bangor Antrim arrived with a bit of spring in their step and went through a rigorous warm-up before their captain, Stuart Campbell, detailed the starting line-up. Cameron O’Neil was the keeper with young Matthew Jefferies and the reliable Marty Coulter in at left and right back respectively. Stuart Campbell along with Paul Whiteside was in the middle of defence with Alex Mayrs, Tommy Monahan and Josh Lavery making up the mid field. The front line consisted of Stephen Gammon, Brian Creighton and Chris Roe which left Andrew Clark and the highly skilled debutant Mark Patterson as substitutes. Antrim started well and quickly won possession and attacked with Mayrs, Gammon and Roe linking well. Creighton was darting about, losing his marker and taking up some dangerous poaching positions which was in vain as the other forwards seemed unwilling to crash the ball towards their centre forward. Service looked dangerous on the counter but the defence, led by Marty Coulter looked solid. A couple of times Antrim were caught napping as the Service attackers had drifted in behind their markers. Thankfully young goalkeeper O’Neill positioned himself well enough to either save the shot or force the attackers to shoot wide. Service took the lead against the run of play when the Antrim midfielders were slow to react leaving the defence totally outnumbered much to the annoyance of the Antrim net-minder. Andrew Clarke came on for Lavery and with Gammon, Roe and the skilful Mayrs using their pace it was only a matter of time before Antrim equalised. A sweeping move involving at least five Antrim players saw Creighton score from a rebound after the Service keeper had saved the initial shot. Young Mark Patterson came on the left wing and showed no sign of nerves as he picked up a few through balls and either beat his opposite number or slipped the ball forward. Just before the break Creighton scored his and Antrim’s second after the home net minder miss-kicked a clearance. Creighton picked up the loose ball, chose his spot and crashed the ball into the net with nonchalant ease. At half time Captain Stuart Campbell was short and sweet asking his team to play the simple pass and crash the ball into the opposition’s circle if the opportunity arose. Service looked much more dangerous in the second half with Antrim making many mistakes when it came to passing and trying to turn onto the opposition’s strong side. Coulter along with Whiteside and Campbell somehow maintained Antrim’s lead despite being constantly under pressure. Service started to intercept more and more passes and unsurprisingly equalised. Patterson, Mayrs, Gammon and Roe were using their pace and put in some dangerous passes right across the goal mouth but somehow Antrim failed to capitalise on these guilt-edged opportunities. Antrim’s discipline went with too many experienced players questioning the umpire’s decisions and this resulted in a couple of temporary suspensions which further disrupted Antrim’s tempo. Service took advantage of this and scored two before the final whistle which sealed the three points and maintain their bogey team status. Antrim’s man of the match was Martin Coulter who hardly put a foot wrong. Hopefully Antrim can learn from this match and stop debating and appealing decisions when under pressure. Mark Patterson played well, certainly held his own and is set to be a star of the future. Thanks to Antrim’s Gary Molloy and the Service umpire who both officiated in a fair and professional manner. So far no fixture arranged for this week.
UNDER 13 BLITZ TOURNAMENT
The Antrim U13 Boys Squad travelled to Lisnagarvey on Sunday to take part in the latest Linwood’s Health Foods Ulster Hockey Blitz and with the opposition being some of Ulster’s biggest Clubs in Banbridge, Lisnagarvey and North Down this couldn’t have been a tougher day for the boys. They started against a very strong Banbridge team and although they performed well they were beaten 2-0 by the well drilled opposition. But the boys didn’t let this deflate them as they bounced back in style in their second game against North Down and had the better of the play and finished as well deserved 1-0 winners with Paddy Roberts scoring the goal with skill and composure way beyond his years. Antrim created chances but were unable to add to their goal tally but the game ended with a 1-0 victory. The victory was spoiled by an injury to Antrim starlet Lewis Clarke who was unable to play in the rest of the Tournament. In the third game against Lisnagarvey Whites the boys defended valiantly as they were put under pressure by their opponents. But as with all good teams they defended like demons and when the opportunity arose to attack they grabbed it with both hands. A great pass from Peter Kane found striker Paddy Roberts unmarked in the circle and he blasted the ball into the net to give Antrim the 1-0 lead. Lisnagarvey threw everything into attack and were rewarded in the final minutes when the ball flew under the diving Antrim goalkeeper Caleb McClean into the net to level the scores. In the fourth and final game against the Lisnagarvey Blues the boys were under pressure from the off and although tired from their earlier exertions, they defended with bravery with goalkeeper McClean saving well and his defenders tackling brilliantly. Lisnagarvey kept pressing and near the end they managed to score twice in quick succession. There was some debate from Antrim who were convinced there had been an infringement before Lisnagarvey’s second goal but the umpire didn’t see it and awarded the goal. Antrim had their share of chances but were unable to break down the stubborn Lisnagarvey defence and they finished the game as 2-0 losers. However this should not be allowed to darken what was a bright day for the Antrim boys who competed against the very best Ulster Schoolboy Hockey has to offer and gave an excellent account of themselves winning 1, drawing 1 and losing 2 games. All of the boys played well but special mention to goalkeeper Caleb McClean who was superb in every game, ably assisted by his central defender Jamie Birrell, whose strong tackling gave Antrim the opportunity to attack the opposition. Also to forward Paddy Roberts who worked hard all day and took his chances well when they arose and Lewis Clarke who suffered an injury in the second game and was unable to continue but he stayed on and supported the team throughout the day. Team thanks go to Katie Birrell who umpired a lot of the games in a fair and professional manner and also to the Lisnagarvey Club for hosting such an excellent event. The boys are looking forward to the next U13s Blitz on 10th March 2019.
Antrim Under 13 Squad :- Daniel Connolly, Paddy Roberts, Jamie Birrell, Ethan Wilson, Peter Kane, Marco Pandolfi, Caleb McClean, Sam Magee and Lewis Clarke.