ANTRIM 4 – 3 CIVIL SERVICE
After an enforced lay off last week Antrim faced Civil Service, one of their biggest rivals for promotion, at the Paddy Marks Arena on Saturday. After their shock defeat by Armagh a couple of weeks ago, this was a must win game for Antrim even though it is still very early in the season. There was little between the teams for the first quarter as they struggled for supremacy, the only thing of note was that Antrim’s Jack Kirkpatrick aggravated a recent hamstring injury and had to leave the field. Already missing defenders Alan Mullan and Nial Black for this game Robbie Watt was his replacement. Service won their first corner in the 11th minute but it was easily cleared away. Antrim’s goalkeeper Andy Heatley was in action kicking the ball clear from edge of circle shots. Then in the 16th minute another kicked clearance by Heatley was adjudged to be dangerous and Service was awarded their first penalty corner of the game. Significant because their player Chris Barnes is the most prolific penalty corner goal scorers in the league. His shot was deflected past for a long corner from which the ball was cleared away. From the hit out a Johnny McMeekin interchange with Dean Wilson allowed Sammy Clyde to get in a strong shot which was confidently blocked and cleared by the Service goal minder. Antrim had the early pressure at the start of the second quarter and a good interchange between McMeekin, Steve Gammon and Jason Roe saw Ryan McCrea’s fierce shot saved and the ball cleared away by the Service goalkeeper. Then Chris Wilson broke in to the circle from the left but the ball deflected off a defender for a long corner which was easily cleared. Service won a penalty corner in the 22nd minute and this time sharpshooter Barnes confidently drag flicked the ball high into the net to give his team the 1-0 lead. Straight from the hit off Service won the ball back and it was played to their winger who broke into the circle from the right. He crossed the ball into the goalmouth and in the ensuing scramble an Antrim player deflected it into the net and suddenly Service had the shock 2-0 lead. Things got worse when in the 31st minute a Service player broke forward towards the Antrim circle obviously shielding the ball as he ran. An Antrim defender tried to make a tackle but the umpire very harshly penalised him awarding Service a penalty corner and Barnes repeated the dose to score their third goal by firing the ball high into the net to leave the Antrim team seemingly dead and buried with a mountain to climb. Then with just a minute remaining in the half McCrea won a penalty corner when he was fouled in the circle. The ball was played into the goalmouth and in the ensuing scramble a defender kicked it leaving the umpire no choice but to award Antrim a penalty stroke. Up stepped Jason Roe and he despatched the ball high into the net to give his team a glimmer of hope of getting back into the game. With sprits on the rise Antrim attacked from the start of the second half and a lovely through pass from McCrea fell straight to Roe but he blazed the ball high over the crossbar. Antrim seemed to be happy just to defend in numbers and depend on the occasional break out. This happened a couple of times but McCrea and McBride were outnumbered when they tried to break through on their own. A 40th minute penalty corner for Service saw Barnes’s drag flick well saved by goalkeeper Heatley. The ball was moved into the Service circle where Antrim won a penalty corner but Dean Wilson’s strong shot was kicked away by the Service goalkeeper. The ball was quickly returned into the Antrim circle and Service was awarded another disputed penalty corner. The Antrim goalkeeper voiced his objection and was promptly sin binned but the rule doesn’t allow any substutions at penalty corners so it had to be defended without a goalkeeper. This time Clyde saved the day when he somehow diverted Barnes’s strong drag flick over the bye line for a long corner. The team usually hasn’t the luxury of including a substitute goalkeeper in the squad but as the Third team was playing in the next game their teenage goalkeeper Ben Kennedy was there and had been included in the squad list. So as soon as the corner was over Ben was brought on and he was soon tested saving another Barnes penalty pile driver a few minutes later. McBride broke free on the left but his attempted reverse stick sweep flew harmlessly high and wide across the circle. A 48th minute Service penalty corner was saved and the ball played upfield as the third quarter ended. A Service cross from the right hit an Antrim foot in the goalmouth to win them another penalty corner and this time the ball from Barnes’s drag flick ricocheted off the crossbar on to an attacker’s body to give Antrim the hit out. Then from a quick break out by Antrim in the 58th minute they won a penalty corner. Dean Wilson’s reverse stick effort was saved by the goalkeeper but the ball broke left to Steve Gammon who fired it goalwards only to be stopped on the line by a defender’s foot to win another penalty stroke. The confident Roe wasted no time in scoring again with a strong drag flick to bring Antrim back into the game. With hope rising and the adrenalin flowing Antrim surged back into the attack and a quick pass from Clyde allowed Chris Wilson to slam the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper high into the net to bring the scores level at 3-3. But Service didn’t give up and they won a couple of penalty corner but Barnes’s shots were blocked by good Kennedy saves. Play was end to end as both teams fought for the winner and as tension rose penalty corners were won and missed at both ends. A Service long corner was driven wide and from the Antrim hit out the ball was played upfield through a McMeekin, Wilson interchange and then into the circle for McBride to find the time and space to slam it into the net to clinch this remarkable 4-3 victory. This week Antrim will play Belfast Harlequins, their other serious rivals for promotion, at the Paddy Marks Arena with a 2.30pm start.
Antrim Squad :- A Heatley, S Clyde, C Murray, J McMeekin, C Wilson, J Kirkpatrick, D Wilson, J Roe, R McCrea, A McBride, S Gammon, B Kennedy, R Watt, M Patterson and M Watt.
CIYMS SECONDS 4 – 2 ANTRIM SECONDS
Antrim Seconds travelled to Belmont last Friday evening to play CIYMS Seconds in their next league match. Captain Lyle Kane had gathered together the bare minimum of eleven players, with work and Christmas festivities having curtailed the number of those available. CIYMS looked dangerous in the opening minutes but Martin Coulter and Jamie Kernaghan in the centre of defence managed to block the marauding attackers. Tommy Monahan along with Matthew Watt played at left and right back respectively and the defence was completed with the up and coming star, teenage goalkeeper Ben Kennedy. CSNI scored in a sweeping attack with one of their unmarked forwards having the time and space to crash in an unstoppable shot. Then Nathan Murdoch and Lyle Kane along with Johnny Clarkson and Andrew Clark upped their efforts. The hockey was end to end with both defences putting in some decent last ditch tackles. The mid field continued to put in the proverbial workmanlike performances with Murdoch and Kyle Wilson linking well with Clark, Kane and Clarkson. Antrim rode their luck a number of times with goalkeeper Kennedy closing down attackers and either blocking the shot or forcing them to fire wide of the mark. Antrim's Marty Coulter had to come off after being struck by the ball after an attacker tried to flick the ball goal wards. Luckily Coulter has the tough skin of an alligator and the heart of a lion and was back on the pitch within a few minutes. Antrim then equalised with the home keeper somehow blocking Jamie Kernaghan's effort on goal but the predator Kane pounced to force the ball in to the net from close range. In the second quarter Kane grabbed another with Antrim's tried and tested deflected shot routine from a ball driven hard into the circle. Although CSNI looked dangerous Antrim's work and commitment along with Watt's pace and Murdoch's physicality kept the homsters from equalising. But soon afterwards CSNI won a penalty corner after an Antrim defender lost possession when trying to dribble the ball out and they paid the penalty when the ball was crashed against the backboard for the equaliser. Within five minutes CSNI were awarded a hotly disputed penalty corner and with their concentration disturbed the Antrim defenders dithered as the corner was taken quickly. The ball was driven in to the net and despite strong protests that the set up had been illegal the umpire awarded the goal. In the eyes of some of the Antrim players this was unsporting and the corner should be taken again. Long story short is the goal was awarded and Antrim were now trailing 3-2. In the last quarter Antrim continued to pile on the pressure but the opposition was managing to link well and only strong kicked clearances from young goalkeeper Kennedy and great tackling by that man Coulter stopped CSNI from doubling their lead. But unfortunately it was the home team who scored next with the ball being crashed into the circle and in the melee of feet and sticks the ball popped out a couple of yards from the goal and was swept in by an alert forward. Antrim won three penalty corners in the last five minutes but the home keeper did well to save the goalbound shots. Thanks to Antrim's Stuart Campbell and the CSNI umpire for officiating on a Friday night in the lead up to Christmas. Thanks also to Dawn Kennedy, Kerrie Coulter and their band of supporters who came along to cheer from the sidelines. Antrim's man of the match was the cool calm and collected Martin Coulter with the youngsters Andrew Clark and Ben Kennedy also in the mix for this accolade. This week the team are at home to South Antrim Thirds in their next league match.
Seconds Squad – B Kennedy, M Coulter, J Kernaghan, T Monahan, K Wilson, N Murdoch, L Kane, J Clarkson, C Roe, A Clark and M Watt.
ANTRIM THIRDS 3 – 2 MOSSLEY FIFTHS
Antrim Thirds entertained near neighbours Mossley Fifths in their Junior League match at the Paddy Marks Arena on Saturday. In the very first minute Antrim caught the Mossley defence sleeping when from a strong Nathan Murdock drive the ball was deflected past the surprised goalkeeper by Chris Roe to give Antrim the 1-0 lead. In the next Antrim attack Robbie Watt’s shot was well saved by the goalkeeper and the ball cleared away. The game developed into an end to end battle with Antrim’s defenders Mark Kingston, Jamie Kernaghan Robbie Watt blocking and breaking up most of the Mossley attacks. Mossley won a long corner in the 10th minute but the ball was intercepted and cleared upfield into the circle for Josh Irwin to fire the ball just wide of the upright. The next attack saw Lyle Kane’s shot from a narrow angle just diverted past by a defenders stick. Midfielders Nathan Murdock, Mark Patterson and Kyle Wilson battled hard to get the ball through to their forwards Josh Irwin, Chris Roe and Lyle Kane. The Antrim players were making things hard for themselves by holding on to the ball far too long and were being caught in possession time after time. Play was very scrappy as both teams struggled to get the upper hand as the first quarter ended. The game continued with Mossley slowly fighting their way back into the game but their attacks were being broken up time after time at the edge of the circle by a determined Mark Kingston. Nathan Murdock was driving the midfield and his passes to Kane and Roe were driven wide from good mid circle positions. Time after time the Antrim forwards were caught in possession making it easy for the Mossley defenders to regain possession and put the home defence under unnecessary pressure. An Antrim attack at the beginning of the third quarter saw the Mossley goalkeeper save Roe’s snap shot before Kane pounced on the rebound to drive the ball wide. Then Steve Gammon shot wide in the next attack after breaking free into the circle. The Antrim pressure continued but almost every time the final shot or pass went astray. A couple of Antrim penalty corners in the 47th minute were well saved by the Mossley keeper and frustratingly the home forwards seemed reluctant to fire the ball goalwards even when they broke into the circle as the third quarter ended without any more goals being scored. The final quarter was just minutes old when a Mossley forward’s snap shot found the net to bring the scores level. As the game progressed both teams pushed hard to score again with Antrim’s centre back Kingston controlling his defence and finding the time to break forward to help his forwards. They won another penalty corner in the 65th minute and this time from Kingston’s sharp strike the ball found the net to give Antrim the 2-1 lead. Two minutes later another Antrim penalty corner Kingston shot rebounded off the Mossley keeper and Roe reacted first to slide the ball under the diving keeper to give his team the 3-1 lead. Straight from the hit off the ball was played into the Antrim circle and slammed into the net by an unmarked Mossley forward to score their second goal seconds before the final whistle sounded to end the game. Antrim’s Man of the Match was centre back Mark Kingston who not only controlled things from the back but was able to drive forward and influence the play especially in the last quarter of the game. Team thanks go to Stuart Kernaghan and the Mossley umpire for their fair and expert handling of this match. This week the Thirds travel to play Saintfield Seconds in their next league match
Thirds Squad :- B Kennedy, J Kernaghan, M Kingston, M Patterson, R Watt, C Roe, N Murdock, K Wilson, L Kane, J Irwin, S Gammon and S Campbell.