At the request of the home club, Antrim’s league game away to Downpatrick was postponed on Saturday following the bereavement of one of their prominent members. This week the Firsts travel to the Demesne Grounds to play Saintfield in their next league match. The Seconds travelled to Comber to play North Down Fifths in a league match on Saturday. The homesters had the early pressure and won their first penalty corner in the second minute which was cleared away. From early in the game Antrim were guilty of holding on to the ball far too long making it easier for their opponents to get in tackles and regain possession of the ball. Defenders Martin Coulter, Robbie Watt, Mark Patterson and Stuart Kernaghan battled hard to break down the home forwards attacks, allowing midfielders Nathan Murdock, Steve Gammon and Chris Wilson plenty of through passes to feed forwards Lyle Kane, Bryan Creighton, Jack Morrison and Josh Irwin. North Down won their first penalty corner in the 12th minute but the ball was deflected over the crossbar for a long corner which was driven wide. As the game progressed most of the Antrim attacks were blunted when that final pass was misdirected or shot was blocked. Antrim won a penalty corner just on 17 minutes but former Antrim player Gavin Rodgers made a magnificent save on the goal line to block Wilson’s goal bound shot. As the second quarter progressed the North Down pressure increased as they concentrated on attacking down the right wing. But fortunately Antrim’s strongest defender Martin Coulter was there to thwart them time after time, in the thick of things helping to block and save a series of penalty corner shots. The pressure eventually told when in the 30th minute a quick North Down attack into the circle from the left the centre forward found the time and space to sweep the ball under the diving goalkeeper Cameron O’Neill to give his team the 1-0 lead. In the last minute of the half Wilson forced his way into the home circle to win a penalty corner from which the alert Lyle Kane latched on to the rebound to force the ball over the line to level the scores. In the third quarter play was end to end with both teams creating and missing chances but the Antrim team weren’t forceful enough in pressing forward when they had possession of the ball. From a 50th minute North Down penalty corner the ball was palmed high into the air by goalkeeper O’Neill but Murdock saved the day when he batted the ball away from below the crossbar. As both teams tired the last quarter was a battle to see who could get that winning goal. The North Down centre midfielder was allowed the time and space to scoop the ball into the space behind the Antrim defence nearly always allowing an unmarked player to collect it and run into the circle. This tactic eventually paid off when the ball was played down the right and quickly switched across the goalmouth to be diverted over the goal line to give his team the lead in the 63rd minute. The next Antrim attack saw Wilson’s great approach work spoiled again when holding on to the ball too long he was robbed at the edge of the circle. For the last five minutes Antrim fought hard for the equaliser but the home defence held firm to clinch this narrow 2-1 victory. Team thanks to Stuart Campbell and the North Down umpire for officiating the game in a fair and efficient manner. This week the Seconds are listed to play Annadale Thirds at the Paddy Marks Arena in their next league match.
Seconds Squad :- C O’Neill, M Coulter, R Watt, A Pearce, J Irwin, J Kernaghan, N Murdock, S Gammon, C Wilson, S Kernaghan, J Morrison, B Creighton, L Kane and M Patterson.
ANTRIM THIRDS 1 – BANGOR THIRDS 3
On Friday evening the Thirds travelled to the Valley Leisure Centre to play Bangor Thirds in a league match. The incessant rain and the poor pitch lighting left both teams with the difficult decision whether this game was playable or not. In the end they decided to carry on asking the umpires to rule out any play that looked remotely dangerous under the poor conditions. Antrim, who had travelled with 14 players sportingly agreed to allow one of their substitutes to play for the Bangor team who had turned up with only 10 men. Andrew Clark volunteered and he donned Bangor’s yellow shirt for the night. Bangor had the early pressure and a strong shot in the second minute was kicked away to safety by goalkeeper Ben Kennedy. The ball was switched to the other end and Mark Kingston’s effort was blocked by the Bangor keeper and was somehow scrambled away. Antrim had the slight edge and a Steve Gammon drive was half cleared by the goalkeeper but the ball hit a defender’s foot to win Antrim their first penalty corner of the game in the 15th minute but Kingston’s drag flick was easily cleared away. The ball was quickly played down the left to the unmarked winger who had the space to run into the circle and sweep it under the diving Kennedy to give Bangor the 16th minute, 1-0 lead. From the next Antrim attack the ball was squared across the goalmouth just in front of the onrushing forwards to squander another good chance. In the poor conditions Antrim were guilty of holding on to the ball far too long being caught in possession time after time. Then in the 23rd minute a Bangor cross from the left the ball, missed by at least three Antrim defenders, fell straight on to the unmarked right winger’s stick and he made no mistake by slamming it past the helpless goalkeeper for the 2-0 lead. Antrim surged back but shots from Chris Roe, Kingston and Lyle Kane were somehow blocked by the busy Bangor goalkeeper as the half time whistle sounded. Antrim stated the second half strongly but the final shots from Kingston and Roe always seemed to go astray either past the post or up over the crossbar. Then five minutes into the second half a good interchanging move between Nathan Murdock, Steve Gammon and Mark Kingston gave Andy Heatley the space in the circle to reverse sweep the ball into the corner of the net to reduce the arrears. As the rain pelted down Antrim continued to press and fire shots at the Bangor goal but their keeper was in great form blocking and clearing everything that came his way. Then when a Bangor player was hurt and had to come off Antrim generously agreed to allow another of their substitutes to stand in for him. The Bangor goalkeeper was unbeatable as he was pelted with shots from the frantic Antrim forwards as the game progressed. Paul Whiteside and Matty Watt were solid in the Antrim defence ably backed up by the energetic Josh Irwin and Kyle Wilson. Then from a quick break out Bangor scored again to take the 3-1 lead in the 55th minute With luck having seemingly deserted the Antrim forwards, the Bangor goalkeeper amazingly continued to make save after save to keep his team in the game. Antrim won several more penalty corners in the last five minutes but again they just couldn’t get the ball into the net and the game came to an end a few minutes later. Disappointed in defeat some of the Antrim players complained that the variation of the rules to keep everybody safe and allowing two of our substitutes to play for Bangor was the reason why this match was lost. Sincere thanks to Tommy Monahan and George Blackwood for their willingness to stand out in the pouring rain to umpire this game in an expert and fair manner. This week the Thirds travel to play Ballymena Seconds in their next league game.
Thirds Squad :- D Kennedy, P Whiteside, A Heatley, N Murdock, M Kingston, M Patterson, S Gammon, C Roe, L Kane, S Campbell, J Irwin, K Wilson, M Watt and A Clark.