North Down entertained Bangor at Comber Leisure Centre last Saturday. Although Bangor have played more games than other teams they were the league pacesetters and North Down knew the significance of the game with the possibility of league restructuring next season in the wake of the new Irish Hockey League.
North down opened at a fast pace and won a number of corners but Rowan Poots’ efforts were well saved by Andy Seay in the Bangor goal. It was Bangor who struck first when Cunningham was allowed time in mid circle to get the ball under control and slot past Gareth McBride. North Down thought they had equalised when Gareth Bailie deflected a loose ball into the net but the umpire disallowed for an infringement. From a corner, Seay again saved but Tom Donnan was on hand to slam home the equaliser. Just on the stroke of half time North Down went in front when Phil Wilson cleverly controlled the ball and beat Seay from five yards.
The second half was only minutes old when Shepherd increased the home team’s lead with a strong strike from a corner and only minutes later Poots got on the scoresheet when he scored with a strong shot from the top of the circle to make it 4-1. With a three goal lead it looked as if North Down would cruise to a comfortable victory but this was not the case. With 20 minutes remaining Bangor scored from a penalty corner when McBride was beaten at the left post to make it 4-2. North Down had another goal disallowed when Andy McGimpsey reacted quickest after a corner but the umpire blew too soon for another corner. With this setback North Down lost their cool and their discipline with a number of players receiving green and yellow cards at one stage being reduced to nine men. Bangor upped their game and it took some good defensive work to keep them out. Mark Linter and Keith Conway both made goal line clearances and McBride saved well from corners however with 8 minutes remaining Bangor pulled another goal back from a corner. With the home team restored to full strength and 5 minutes remaining Rowan Poots scored the all important decisive goal with a strong reverse shot from the right of the circle and North Down were able to play out time and secure three valuable points.
Report by Robin Mitchell.