Lee Brown heroics as thirds edge cup thriller

The men’s thirds took a break from league action on Saturday to take on Junior 3 leaders Queen’s 2nds in the Junior Shield at the Dub. The 3rds had been taught a clinical lesson by the students earlier in the season and were out for revenge, hoping to repeat the heroics of the last couple of cup campaigns, beating the league leaders in both and indeed winning the competition in 2012.

The game started at a frantic pace with both sides creating half chances but the goalkeepers remained untroubled early on. North Down then settled down and nearly took the lead with Mark Shannon and Scott Moore going close. Queen’s then upped their pace and after a long period of pressure they forced two short corners which were calmly dealt with.  However, shortly before halftime they took the lead when they took advantage of a lapse in the visitors’ marking. Indeed it was almost 2 shortly before the interval but a great save from Lee Brown and then defensive blocks from Robin McMullan and Stuart Nicholson ensured that North Down went in at half time only 1 goal down.

At halftime the visitors were optimistic aware that they could be sharper with their passing and tighter with their marking whilst maintaining the great work rate and effort. After the break North Down began aggressively with Andy Walls, Josh Gilmore and Andy Shannon getting forward more from midfield and making use of the great overlapping runs from Andy Boyd. Then after going close several times, a great move involving Scott Moore, Andy Shannon and Andy Walls finished with Sam Pyper crashing a shot off the top of the backboard to draw the Comber men  level. Unfortunately this parity didn’t last long as Queens retook the lead almost immediately with a fine reverse shot into the roof of the net giving Lee Brown no chance.

North Down pressed on looking for another equaliser but had to guard against a third goal for the home side. Most of the North Down pressure came down the right side where Kai Jenkins was proving impossible to shake off the ball.  Several times he looked to be dispossessed only to steal the ball back and relaunch the attack. North Down got a second equalizer with 10 minutes left when Paul Johnston’s cross was redirected into the roof of the net by Scott Moore.  Both sides could have won it late on but the game was destined for extra time.

In the short extra time period neither side found a goal but both came close.  Kai Jenkins was unlucky not to score and Mark Shannon was foiled by a last ditch tackle whilst Stuart Nicholson marshalled his defence well with Ali Hunter impressing.  It was a game high in quality, played in an excellent competitive spirit but it was finally to be decided by the dreaded penalty flicks. Five men quickly stepped up as takers and the shootout progressed as follows:

ND  Score (Pyper) 1-0. Queens score 1-1

ND Score (M Shannon) 2-1. Queens score2-2

ND Score (McMullan) 3-2. Queens score 3-3

ND Miss (Johnston) 3-3 Queens Miss 3-3

ND Score (Walls) 4-3. Queens Score (4-4)

ND Score (Pyper) 5-4. Queens Score (5-5)

ND Score (M.Shannon) 6-5. Queens miss, saved onto post by Brown. North Down win 6-5 on penalties, 8-7 overall.

This was an excellent result for the thirds and a great, fully committed performance from all 13 players however special praise must go to Lee Brown for his shootout heroics.

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