North Down were forced to switch their Premier League game against Kilkeel to Friday night with an 8.00 pm start at Kilkeel. The timing of the game meant that Ally McArthur, Steven Dalzell and Kai Jenkins were not available along with coach Aaron Mills.
The game was played at a fast pace but was confined to midfield for long periods as both sides probed for an opening. Kilkeel took the lead when the North Down defence was caught out with an overhead pass and a cross from the right was hammered home. North Down played some attractive hockey and matched Kilkeel in all parts of the pitch. With 10 minutes of the half remaining they equalised when Shepherd scored from a short corner to make it 1-1 at half time.
Early in the second period the visitors’ defence was again caught out with an overhead pass and Kilkeel scored with a strong shot from the edge of the circle. Kilkeel grew in confidence and won a short corner. The strike hit Mark Linter on the leg and they increased their lead from the resulting penalty stroke. North Down exerted pressure on the Kilkeel circle and Ricky McMillan reduced the arrears to 3-2 with a strong reverse shot from the left of the circle. The visitors pressed hard for the equaliser and had a great chance from a short corner when two Kilkeel defenders were sent to the half way line for breaking the line but somehow they managed to clear Shepherd’s flick. North Down had another good chance to equalise but Speers failed to make the vital contact. Two poor clearances in the final 5 minutes allowed Kilkeel to pull further ahead and give them a flattering final scoreline. Firstly a poor clearance kick from McBride went straight to a Kilkeel player and he made no mistake and then Shepherd fluffed his clearance and Kilkeel again punished the mistake.
This was a much improved team performance but North Down must stop making careless mistakes as these are being punished at Premier level.
Report by Robben Mitchell