North Down mens thirds hosted Queens seconds on Saturday at Enler Park and having lost 6 points against last year’s league winners, the Comber side knew Queens lower half league position should not be taken lightly and fully expected a challenging encounter.
From the whistle the visitors put pressure on the home defence and it took North Down a good ten minutes to get a foothold on the game. Both teams had their chances with the Queens keeper being the busier of the two. North Down used their wingers well who continually found space in behind, allowing Pyper to thread the through balls. It was only a matter of time for one of these chances to be converted and Scott Moore was the supplier with young Andy Proctor finishing well into the roof of the net from close range. The hosts then should have made it two with Mark Shannon one on one only to miss hit his shot and then smash the rebound off the post. Queens then had their spell of possession and after a Nicholson mistake got through to beat Ryan McKee in the North Down goal. With momentum on their side the visitors made it 1-2 with a well converted drag flick. The thirds responded well and would not let the game slip out of their hands. A good advantage was allowed just inside the 25 and Sam Brown found Sam Pyper at the top of the area who found the bottom corner with a birthday goal. The half time whistle soon blew on an entertaining first half.
The second half was a much different affair with Queens dominating possession with some great skills on display in the centre of the park. In that final third however their danger men were no match for the stalwarts in Paul Revill, Stu Nicholson and Paul Beaney who threw everything into the game with experienced positioning and last ditch tackles to clear the North Down lines. North Down’s second half chances were limited however they managed to convert a goal mouth scramble through Moore to take the lead. The Queens keeper would have been disappointed to have let this one in. With 10 mins to go stand in skipper Pyper got 11 men behind the ball and North Down produced a ‘park the bus’ performance showing pure grit, determination, and hunger for all 3 points. Queens did their best to spoil the party and were unable to convert any of four back to back short corners, on one of which keeper McKee provided save of the season, finger tipping a rocket of a drag flick onto the cross bar. Much to the relief of the exhausted whites, the final whistle blew and the 3s went top of the league and maintained their unbeaten season run.
Queens should be proud of their efforts and provided North Down thirds toughest challenge all season. They were unlucky not to take points from the game and no doubt they will start to climb the table with these sorts of performances.
Man of the Match – Ryan McKee