NEWRY SECONDS 3 – 1 ANTRIM SECONDS
Antrim Seconds travelled deep into Co Down on Saturday to play Newry Seconds in their last league match of the season seeking a win to avoid relegation. For this game they were able to select sixteen players, on paper probably the strongest squad they had been able to assemble all season. The game was delayed in starting until the home team were able to get a person to stand in as umpire. Antrim stated strongly and attacked the Newry circle but were denied a couple of penalty corners when their umpire allowed play to continue. This upset some Antrim players so much that one of them was sin binned for complaining too much. A few minutes later another umpire took over and things returned to normal. As the half progressed Antrim had the edge with Stu Kernaghan, Johnny McMeekin, Ricky McClintock and Stuart McIlroy combining well to put pressure on the home defence. A cross into the Newry circle in the sixth minute found Jack Kirkpatrick but the ball hit his foot and the chance was lost. Antrim won a couple of long corners but they came to nothing and the ball was cleared away. Then McClintock broke into the circle to fire the ball goalwards on the reverse but the Newry goalkeeper confidently gloved it away to safety. Antrim won their first penalty corner in the 12th minute but it came to nothing. Then a right wing cross from McClintock went behind McIlroy and the ball was thumped away. The next attack saw Mattie Watt break into the circle but he couldn’t get a shot in and the ball was cleared. Any Newry attacks were being well smothered by the stubborn defending of Shaun McNeill, David Mailey and Robbie Watt. A 19th minute attack saw the ball played across the Newry circle to McIlroy but his first time shot flew high over the crossbar. Nathan Murdock won a 20th minute penalty corner but from McMeekin’s goal bound drag flick the ball was well blocked by the home goalkeeper. From the long corner the ball from Chris Wilson’s shot was brilliantly saved by the goalkeeper and pushed away by a defender. A 23rd minute penalty corner was deflected by McIlroy but Nial Black’s shot from a narrow angle went wide. Another Antrim penalty corner in the 25th minute was squandered and from a quick Newry break the ball was fired wide. Tempers flared and a player from each side was sent to the sin bin to cool down. A 33rd minute penalty corner shot from McClintock flew high into the net but the goal was disallowed and the half ended with the ball from an Antrim penalty corner shot being fired wide by McMeekin. As the second half started the home team were boosted by the arrival of several players from another earlier game and it continued with both teams struggling to gain the upper hand. A right wing cross from McMeekin was hurriedly swept past by Kirkpatrick in the 38th minute. The ball was switched to the other end and from a penalty corner Nathan Murdock saved the day when he stopped a goal bound shot on the line. Antrim won a penalty corner in the 42nd minute but again the routine was botched but from the ensuing scramble the ball was fired across the goalmouth out of reach of their onrushing forwards. A high ball flicked out of the Antrim defence was penalised and was strongly disputed. The umpires consulted but the decision stood which unsettled the Antrim defence and from the restart the ball from the quick free was lobbed across their circle where a Newry forward scrambled it past goalkeeper Matthew Whiteside into the net to give his team the lead in the 45th minute. Another Antrim player was sin binned for complaining just as his team needed him on the pitch. Antrim pushed forward for the equaliser but that old problem of holding on to the ball too long to be caught in possession time after time was spoiling their game. The Newry goalkeeper was having a brilliant game somehow saving fierce goalbound shots from Wilson and McClintock in the 51st minute. Then from a 53rd minute Antrim penalty corner shot from McClintock the ball was deflected into the net by Wilson for the deserved equaliser. But straight from the hit off the ball was quickly played forward through the sleeping Antrim defenders into the circle for an unmarked forward to fire the ball past the helpless Whiteside into the net to give Newry back the lead. Another player from each side was sin binned in the heat of the battle. Then from a 58th minute attack the Newry goalkeeper saved the day when he somehow saved a pile driver from McIlroy. He was in action again unbelievably saving at least three shots in quick succession to thwart the frustrated Antrim forwards. With time running out Antrim threw caution to the wind and pushed everyone forward to try and get another goal. But as feared, a quick clearance out of their defence found an unmarked forward in the Antrim circle who had the time and space to slide the ball under the diving Whiteside to clinch the 3-1 victory. But the Newry goalkeeper had the final say when he again made another tremendous save from a McClintock shot just before the final whistle. With only a few points separating the five teams at the bottom of their league this disappointing defeat means that the Seconds are relegated into Junior League Four next season. Team thanks to Gary Molloy for umpiring in his usual fair and efficient manner, not only for this game but the many games he has done throughout the season. Club thanks go to Captain Matthew Whiteside and Vice Captain Stewart Kernaghan in overcoming the very difficult task of getting a team out week after week throughout the year and of course to all the players who, through thick and thin, have loyally supported their team.
Antrim Squad :- M Whiteside, S McNeill, M Watt, S Kernaghan, J McMeekin, D Mailey, N Black, N Murdock, E Angell, J Kirkpatrick, C Wilson, R McClintock, R Watt, J Kernaghan and S McIlroy.