After a disappointing defeat to Dungannon, North Down travelled to play Lisnagarvey at Hillsborough on Saturday looking to make amends in another match from which they knew they needed points. North Down were hoping not to miss Rachel Mornin, who has forged a strong partnership with Bethan Brittain at the heart of the defence, too much as Laura Clarke was moved back into the defence and Lauren Brown pushed into a central role in midfield.
The game started very openly and in the first 60 seconds North Down charged up the field through the blistering pace of Selina Lewis who struck the outside of the post with her effort. A few dubious decisions, one in particular against Bethan Brittain after a formidable tackle, saw Garvey awarded a series of early short corners however the North Down corner team were well organised and cleared their lines. Mid way through the half Garvey broke the deadlock. Their right winger attacked the circle and, with Laura Clarke slipping and falling as she was tackling the Garvey player, played the ball against Clarke’s body to win a free. Garvey took the free quickly and the ball was played across the circle to an unmarked Jenna Flynn at the back where she deflected the ball home. Unlike last week North Down were not to be disheartened to go a goal down relatively early and forced a series of short corners of their own but were not able to capitalise before half time.
Despite going into the second half behind the Comber girls felt positive as they had played some good hockey and were creating chances. They knew the next goal would be critical to the balance of the game. Rachel Russell was pushed into the forward line to provide some more experience as the visitors looked to find an equaliser. North Down were in the ascendency and won another series of corners but again much like the first half could not make the most of these opportunities. However the equaliser did finally come from a short corner when Emily Adams’ initial effort was saved but the ball squirted towards the back post where Bethan Brittain made no mistake.
The visitors now looked to push for a winner and play swung from end to end. With 8 minutes remaining Lauren Brown drove through the middle of the pitch and smashed the ball towards Russell at the top right hand side of the circle who with one touch deflected the ball into the far top corner in what is an early contender for goal of the season. North Down almost made it 3-1 soon after when another great deflection by Rachel Lucas was well saved by the Garvey keeper. The home side now needed to push for an equaliser and it was backs to the walls for North Down however every member of the North Down squad carried out their necessary defensive duties. Despite numbers behind the ball Garvey still managed to create three clear cut chances. The first was fantastically saved by a fearless Trish Neill who rushed off her line to close down the shot which struck her helmet and fly high over the bar. The second was cleared off the line by Clarke and Neill was again to the fore to save the third. The ball was played to an unmarked Garvey player at the back post and a goal looked certain. However taking a touch when a first time effort seemed the better option was all the invitation that Neill needed to slide out of nowhere and save at the back post. North Down managed the game well in the remaining few minutes to run the clock down and pick up an important 3 points. They will hope to build on this result this Saturday against a Raphoe side who have yet to pick up a point.
PMB Player of the Match:
Report by Laura Clarke