The ladies firsts travelled to Cookstown on Saturday looking for 3 points to retain second position in Senior One. Regardless of form or current league standings, Cookstown is always a difficult place to go and somewhere that North Down have struggled to get points in the last number of seasons.
North Down started nervously and were under pressure from the first whistle. The Comber girls struggled to get the ball and when they did they couldn’t manage to retain it. They were camped in their defensive 25 for the opening 10 minutes and central defenders Bethan Brittain and Rachel Mornin needed to be at their best to keep Cookstown from creating any meaningful chances. North Down then seemed to finally shake the journey out of their legs and find their feet. Olivia Brown and Katharine Hill began to drive the team forward from deep. Buoyed by these two young guns North Down began to assert themselves on the game and the home side looked shaky at the relentless nature of the North Down attack. Brown with her back to goal hit an early snap shot which required a good save to keep it out, Hill had a shot so powerful it almost put the goalkeeper into the back of the net but somehow the ball stayed out and then Laura Clarke had a strike from a penalty corner cleared off the line by a defender. Despite this pressure and the home goal being peppered with efforts the teams managed to go into half time still goalless.
North Down knew that the first goal was crucial as it could potentially open the flood gates if they got it early in the second half but Cookstown were still very much in the game at 0-0 and had the potential to punish North Down on the counter attack. The second half began much the same as the first had ended with the visitors pushing for an opener. Finally mid way through the half the deadlock was broken. After wasting some five short corners, Lauren Brown found Bethan Brittain who made no mistake deflecting the ball into the net. However rather than pushing on from there, North Down went into their shell a little inviting pressure onto themselves by trying to defend the lead. Cookstown played the big ball into the circle in hope of getting a deflection with the unpredictable bounce of the water based pitch but North Down keeper Laura Irwin dealt with the threat well on the occasions when the ball was put right into the danger area in front of goal. This seemed to shake the visitors into life again as they realised attack is indeed the best form of defence. They doubled their lead soon after when Olivia Brown beat her defender before squaring the ball to Rachel Lucas at the left post in a two on one with the keeper and Lucas made no mistake. Cookstown pushed hard for the remaining 5 minutes and Coach Geoff Colligan will be hoping for better game management from his side when defending a lead in terms of keeping possession and slowing the game down when necessary but it was a win none the less and a good result against a team who are always strong at home.
This Saturday the girls travel to the south side of Dublin to play Rathgar in the Irish Trophy. They are hoping to emulate last season’s efforts when they made it to the final before losing out to Cork Church of Ireland.