CIVIL SERVICE 5 – 2 ANTRIM
With the Seconds and Thirds having no games on Saturday all roads let to Stormont where the Firsts took on Civil Service in their penultimate Premier League match of the season. Captain Dean Wilson fielded a squad of twelve players, six of whom were teenagers including Jack Kirkpatrick and Steven Gammon who were making their debut on the senior team. The experience Neil McCullough was recalled to help tighten up the defence which had been leaking an alarming amount of goals in the last few matches. Service attacked from the start and from a third minute pass across the Antrim circle the ball was swept wide. A bad clearance by an Antrim defender was intercepted and the ball played across the goalmouth but it was just out of reach of an onrushing forward in the seventh minute. Service won their first penalty corner in the 10th minute from which the ball was driven against the backboards at the unguarded left hand post for the 1-0 lead. Good defending from Alan Mullan and Neil McCullough gave midfielders Dean Wilson, Nathan Murdock and Thomas Allen that little bit of space to feed the ball through to forwards Kirkpatrick, Lyle Kane and Gammon. A 17th minute penalty corner was saved by the ever dependable Heatley and the ball cleared away. Play was scrappy and as both team struggled to get the upper hand Antrim were guilty of giving the ball away time after time to put them under unnecessary pressure. Another Antrim defensive mistake conceded a 20th minute penalty corner and once again the ball was belted into the net for the 2-0 lead. Antrim’s best player Dean Wilson was trying to force the pace but going it alone he was guilty of holding on to the ball too long and lost possession time after time and half time arrived with no further scoring. Antrim were still persisting in keeping possession of to the ball that split second too long and conceded several penalty corners in the 38th minute but it was somehow scrambled away. Service won a long corner in the 46th minute from which the ball was fired into the goalmouth to hit McCullough’s foot and from the penalty stroke it was flicked past the helpless Heatley for the 3-0 lead. Within a minute Service won another penalty and from the clever switch the ball was fired into the net for the 4-0 lead. With the game virtually over as a contest the home team relaxed a bit and Antrim won their first penalty corner of the game in the 53rd minute. Up stepped Wilson and from Murray’s push out he drove the ball against the backboards to bring the score to 4-1 to reduce the arrears and within a minute he had repeated the dose when he rattled the backboards with another unstoppable penalty corner shot for the second goal. But the revival was halted in its tracks when two Antrim players were harshly sin binned for making tackles in determined 50/50 challenges for the ball. This completely upset the Antrim rhythm and the advantage fell back to the home team but Neil McCullough proved his worth for Antrim with his determined defending, even clearing a fierce shot off the line in the 60th minute. Service slowly regained control and it was no surprise when in the 65th minute the Antrim defence hesitated waiting for an obvious infringement to be penalised, their centre forward played on and fired the ball into the net for their fifth goal to clinch their convincing 5-2 victory. This week the team travel to Edenville Park to play Portadown in their last Premier League match of the season. At the Forum on Saturday the Seconds play Mossley Fourths at 230pm and the Thirds play near neighbours Ballymena Seconds at 4pm.
Antrim Squad :- A Heatley, C Murray, N McCullough, R Watt, A Mullan, D Wilson, T Allen, N Murdock, S Gammon, M Watt, L Kane and J Kirkpatrick