North Down ladies first eleven returned to league action on Saturday after last week’s heavy defeat in the Irish Senior Cup to Pegasus. Welcoming an Armagh side to Comber who were sitting bottom of the Premier League without a single point, North Down seemed to still be suffering a hangover from last week’s rout in what was their worst performance of the season.
North Down started nervously and made several early mistakes giving away possession cheaply on a number of occasions. The visitors pressed North Down high up the pitch and they could not get the ball out of their own half. This pressure paid off as Armagh took the lead after 10 minutes when a short corner was switched to the left post and deflected high into the roof of the net. Armagh could have increased their lead only for Trish Neill racing off her line and sliding out to take the ball from the Armagh forward who had raced into the North Down circle unchallenged. North Down were dealt another blow as defender Bethan Brittain pulled her hamstring and had to exit the game half way through the first half. It was just not North Down’s day as nothing seemed to gel and Armagh linked up well as a team and were able to keep the ball for long periods. The Comber girls were happy to make it to half time only one goal behind and with a chance to regroup.
The home side started brightly in the second half and pushed hard for an equaliser. A few short corners were created but came to nothing and a one on one opportunity with the goalkeeper was also spurned. Just when it looked like North Down might get back into the game and were pressing high around the Armagh circle again possession was lost as the Armagh defender won the ball, brought it clear and was able to play a long ball in behind the North Down defence to an unmarked forward who made no mistake and put Armagh 2-0 in front. With ten minutes remaining North Down pulled a goal back as a hit out from Laura Clarke was deflected through to Katharine Hill who found herself in acres of room and she kept her composure to round the Armagh goalkeeper and the defenders who had made it back onto the goal line to make it 1-2. However, in what summed up the day, Armagh restored their two goal lead almost immediately as they punished a series of North Down mistakes to make the score 1-3.
With only 4 minutes remaining North Down had a great opportunity to get back into contention when they won a short corner. However as had been the case the whole game, and for which they had already picked up two green cards and a yellow, the Armagh captain continued to argue with the umpire about his decision and with North Down set up to take the short corner the decision was reversed to a hit out. North Down did manage to win another short corner soon after and although things didn’t quite go to plan Clarke was able to square the ball on her reverse back to Katharine Hill who slammed the ball home from mid circle. North Down got set up quickly for the restart but Armagh used good game management to run down the clock and see out the remaining two minutes to make the final score 2-3. North Down now travel to Lisnagarvey this Saturday in a game which they must come away with league points.
Report by Laura Clarke