North Down made the journey to Larne last Saturday hoping to continue their unbeaten run in 2014. Injuries to Rebecca Mercer and Abbie Trimble opened the door for Jenna Hoey, the ladies leading goal scorer this season, to make her first appearance for the 1st XI. Larne have been the surprise package in Senior One this season, sitting third in the table and are capable of producing shock results as was the case last week when they held league leaders Portadown to a 2-2 draw. But North Down were confident they could come away with three points which would elevate them above Larne in the league.
North Down started the game in a positive manner and created a number of early chances but on both occasions no one could apply the final touch. Good attacking play down the right involving Rachel Hutchison and Rachel Lucas was again unrewarded as the Larne defence stood firm. An early green card was awarded to Laura Clarke for a stick tackle and less than a minute later a Larne forward suffered the same fate for not retreating the required 5 metres from a free hit. Neither team had time to take advantage of the extra player and, when both teams were back to full strength, Larne won their first penalty corner of the match. A weak drag flick was saved by Chrissie McKee but the rebound was dispatched into the corner of the goal. The remainder of the half was played out in midfield with no real chances for either side.
The second half began with North Down encamped in the Larne half. A penalty corner was won but failed to produce a shot from the top of the circle. Rebecca Mitchell – Cram was introduced ten minutes into the second half and this seemed to give North Down an extra lift. She was immediately involved in an attack up the left side and played the ball into Jenna Hoey who was unceremoniously taken down by the Larne keeper. A penalty stroke was rewarded and was easily dispatched by Laura Clarke. North Down changed to a 3-3-4 formation to go for the win, a risky tactic but one that the coach was happy to speculate on. North Down continued to pile pressure on the Larne defence winning two more penalty corners but again the Larne penalty corner defence team came out on top and cleared the ball from danger. With five minutes to go Lauren Brown received a green card and Larne capitalised by scoring through an unmarked player at the back post who steered the ball into the net. North Down continued to press high up the pitch and were rewarded with a penalty corner in the last minute. This time the variation worked and Bethan Brittain slammed the ball home to secure a 2-2 draw which was a fair result and keeps both teams in their respective positions.
Attention turns to the Irish Trophy this coming Saturday as the ladies head to Dublin to take on Our Lady’s.
Player of the Match: Bethan Brittain