By Peter Bond
After fixture cancelations for both teams on Friday morning, frantic phone calls that evening quickly re-arranged a fixture with Campbellians which was previously postponed due to a frozen pitch.
A stark change in the weather saw a glorious day for hockey in the picturesque setting of Campbell College.
North Down started the brightest of the two sides pinning Campbell back in their own and creating numerous chances only for the North Down forward to be wasteful in front of goal. – one win away from guaranteed promotion obviously putting the visitors on edge!
Campbell changed tactics and reverted to clearing their lines aerially, which gave them a little more breathing space at the back.
North Down continued to press though and were soon rewarded. Walker entered the circle on the right and topped the ball. This “dummied” the defender with the ball dropping nicely for Walker to advance deeper where he got another bite at the cherry. This time connecting sweetly the cross flew across goal for Clarke to deflect home for the first goal of the afternoon.
Campbell soon came back. Some great play through the middle carved open North Down and the home side were soon back on level terms. The game then turned in to a midfield battle and by Half time Campbell had taken the lead this time from a goal mouth scramble and what North Down protested to be a back stick.
For the second week in a row the hairdryer was out for the team talk and North Down came out in the second half knowing that they needed to pull something out of the bag to overcome this strong opposition.
The second half started as the first ended with Campbell on top, the team talk seemed to have fallen on deaf ears! – However North Down clawed their way back in to the match after some tactical tinkering for on looking substitute Graham. North Down eventually found a bit of rhythm. After a succession of short corners a ball slipped through and was judged to hit the defenders foot on the line. Penalty stroke the outcome. Captain Bond stepped up to take the flick and dispatched it low in to the net. 2-2 was indeed a turning point. With new belief North Down were hungry for more, and it wasn’t long before they were ahead for the second time in the contest. With Campbell committing men forward the ball fell kindly in to the North Down midfield, the ball was quickly transferred up the forwards, with the ball in the circle Bond won a 50:50 ball with the Campbell defender getting the ball to Purvis, Purvis passed to Clarke who made no mistake. North Down wrapped up the match in the final few minutes again breaking through the middle Purvis and Clarke combined for the latter to complete the hat-trick.
It has now come down to a crucial game against a rejuvenated North Down 6XI as a win on Saturday will clinch the Junior 6 title.