Antrim’s euphoria over their good win against promotion rivals Civil Service two weeks ago ended on Saturday when they were brought back down to earth when they lost heavily against another rival for promotion Belfast Harlequins at the Paddy Marks Arena. Harlequins had the ball in the net inside the first minute but the umpire ruled out the goal for infringement. Harlequins won their first penalty corner in the 3rd minute and the ball deflected off goalkeeper Ben Kennedy’s pads on to Jason Roe’s knee to win them a penalty stroke which was converted to give them the 1-0 lead. Unfortunately this blow to his knee injured Roe and severely restricted his influence on the rest of the game. The buoyant Harlequins team continued to press the Antrim defence who even at this early stage looked slow and sluggish. Another Harlequins penalty corner was saved and the ball cleared upfield but the Antrim forwards struggled to get it into the danger area. From the next Harlequins attack a forward was obstructed in the circle and from the penalty corner the ball was blasted against the backboards for the 2-0 lead. The tactics of the Antrim team was to try and keep possession and rely on breakouts into the Harlequin’s half. But it didn’t work and from another Harlequin’s penalty corner the ball was flicked high into the net in the 17th minute for the 3-0 lead as the first quarter ended. The trend continued with the visitors controlling the game with Antrim not making any effort to shake themselves out of their complacency. But it was no surprise when in the 22nd minute a Harlequins attack down the left saw the ball worked through at least three defenders and played to an unmarked forward who had the time and space to slam it under the diving keeper into the net for the 4-0 lead. Unlike the week before there wasn’t a sign of an Antrim revival as their midfielders and forwards continued to dally and dither on the ball to be easily caught in possession by the grateful Harlequins defenders. Harlequins were showing how they are one of the favourites to win this league with their slick fast moving hockey leaving Antrim trailing in their wake. Their pressure continued in the third quarter against the whole Antrim team who were pinned into their own half and from another 40th minute penalty corner the helpless defence seemed unable to stop the ball entering the net from another goalbound shot. In the 45th minute a Harlequins player ran the ball from his own 25 yard line to win a corner in the Antrim circle and again they scored when it was forced into the net at the left hand post for the 6-0 lead. In a rare Antrim attack an interchange between Johnny McMeekin, Roe and Dean Wilson to win a free hit at the edge of the circle. The ball was played to Alex McBride who was obstructed as he was about to shoot and from the penalty corner award Dean Wilson found the corner of the net to score Antrim’s first goal. Straight from the hit off the ball was played into the Antrim circle and was going harmlessly wide when the goalkeeper trying to clear it away kicked it straight into the path of a grateful Harlequins forward who promptly netted to give his team the 7-1 lead. Within a minute they scored again when the unmarked winger steered the ball into the net from close range for goal number eight. The final quarter was just a formality as the Antrim team who had lost their direction and discipline continued to be pressed by their rampant visitors. Antrim won another penalty corner in the 63rd minute and Dean Wilson scored his second goal with a strong unstoppable shot. Two minutes later from a scramble in the Antrim goalmouth the ball was forced over the line to clinch Harlequins easy 9-2 victory. A change to a more positive system in tactics is needed to lift moral and help move this Antrim team, who have the ability, into an attacking aggressive mode right from the starting whistle if they are to have any chance of challenging their nearest rivals for promotion. Antrim now take the Christmas break with their next match scheduled for the 4th of January at home against old rivals Portrush.
Antrim Squad :- B Kennedy, A Mullan, C Murray, S Clyde, J McMeekin, J Kirkpatrick, D Wilson, R McCrea, A McBride, C Wilson, M Watt, M Patterson, S Gammon and R Watt
ANTRIM SECONDS 3 – SOUTH ANTRIM FOURTHS 1
With the festivities in full swing and a large number of young players not available, team Captain Lyle Kane was still able to get a team out for Saturday’s home game which was played at the Valley Leisure Centre against South Antrim Fourths. Antrim lost the toss and had to play into the wind and face the bright afternoon sun for the first half. Antrim attacked with the enthusiasm of a team with a point to prove. From the start midfielders Mark Patterson, Mark Kingston and Nathan Murdoch were linking well with forwards Chris Roe, Lyle Kane and Johnny Clarkson as they attacked the visitor’s circle. With Dave Mailey and Jamie Kernaghan in the defence along with Tommy Monahan and Cameron ‘the Cat’ O’Neill in goal the defence looked strong. Mailey in particular was clearing up everything that came his way and his hit-outs from the back were faultless. Antrim probably had the edge with their passing game much improved from previous weeks. Kingston was playing some great pass and move hockey and with Mailey pushing forward Antrim looked like the team most likely to score. After the first quarter it was South Antrim who looked the more dangerous and a few interceptions down the right hand side allowed them too much room and only great defensive covering tackles by Murdoch, Kingston and Mailey prevented shots on goal. Goalkeeper O’Neill had a few clearances to make and his kicking was accurate and controlled. Then an attack from the right was brilliantly picked up by a South Antrim mid-fielder and he played the perfect pass to a team mate who ghosted in at the back post to finish the move with a crisp accurate strike giving the young Antrim goalie no chance to make the save. Antrim fought back and piled on the pressure with Patterson showing some great dribbling and passing skills and within minutes Antrim finally won a penalty corner following sustained pressure. Kane’s deflected shot was saved by the keeper on the line but Kingston pounced on the ball and drove it into the bottom right hand corner to level the scores as half time arrived. Captain Kane’s team talk was well structured, commending his team for their efforts and imploring them to continue to keep up the work rate and to move the ball quickly. In the third quarter both defences were well organised and the play between the two twenty fives was physical but fair. Both teams were guilty of breaking the play down and again Mailey was the wall in the Antrim defence, but despite winning a couple of penalty corners Antrim just couldn’t score with a Mailey shot just shaving the outside of the left hand post. It wasn’t until the 58th minute that Antrim took the lead. Antrim’s Johnny Clarkson picked up the ball and using his electrifying pace he cut to the bye-line before laying it off to the inrushing Patterson who created the space to crash the ball into the bottom right hand corner. Antrim then slowed the pace of the game down and continued their short crisp passing game. Again Mailey, Kane, Kingston and Murdoch were instrumental in breaking their opponent’s attacks down, marking tight and keeping possession. With only six minutes remaining a great ball driven in by Mailey towards the South Antrim flick spot was expertly deflected into the net by Captain Kane to give the home team a 3-1 advantage. Despite the best efforts by the visitors Kernaghan and Mailey wouldn’t let them threaten the goal and it was Antrim who secured all three points. Massive thanks go to Kerrie Clarkson and the South Antrim umpire who both officiated in a fair and professional manner and tried to play the advantage to keep the game flowing. This was a great Antrim team performance, their best of the season so far, with plenty of short passing and a very disciplined attitude which gave them a deserved three points against a skilful, dangerous South Antrim team. Antrim’s Man of the Match award went unanimously to Dave Mailey who barely put a foot wrong the entire game. The Seconds next game isn’t to the 4th January when they are scheduled to play CIYMS Seconds at home in the league. Antrim Thirds away match against Saintfield Seconds on Saturday was postponed. This week the Thirds will make the long journey to Donegal to play Raphoe Thirds in a league match.
Seconds Squad – C Roe, L Kane, J Clarkson, M Patterson, M Kingston, N Murdoch, T Monahan, D Mailey, J Kernaghan, J Irwin and C O’Neill