And we don’t often get to say that ……… anyway, ……
North Down travelled to Edenvilla Park to play Portadown in their second game of this season’s Premier League keen to ensure that they brought the momentum gained from last week’s win against South Antrim.
Despite the inclement weather conditions caused by the remnants of Storm Brian, the game was played at a high tempo. North Down moved the ball particularly well during the opening forays and kept Portadown pinned back in their own half. Indeed, it was this pressure that led to North Down’s Melvyn Nicholls opening the scoring. Nicholls evaded his defender and found himself with a yard of space in a crowded circle. This was spotted by Andrew McKibbin who duly delivered the ball and Nicholls deflected high into the roof of the net.
North Down continued to test the Portadown defence and Gareth McKeown saw his drag flick saved by a diving goalkeeper on two occasions. As Portadown grew into the game they caused problems on the counter attack. Andrew Coates, in the North Down goal, was off his line fast to smother the opposition’s attack on a number of occasions. On one such attack North Down conceded a penalty corner and Portadown made them pay, converting with a drag flick.
However, the scores did not remain equal for long as shortly afterwards David Morris picked out Gareth McKeown in the Portadown circle. McKeown rounded the keeper and despite taking contact from the keeper, he kept his balance and coolly slotted the ball into the net.
The sides went into the break with the score 2-1 in the away side’s favour. Following the halftime break it was Portadown who started the sharper of the two sides and their best opportunity to equalise arose during this period. A threaded pass broke the North Down defence and let Portadown through one on one with Coates. Coates was alert to the danger and made the first save but the ball broke to a Portadown forward. With what seemingly appeared to be an empty net, the forward crashed the ball goal bound and must have surely believed his shot would cross the line. However he had failed to account for Jordan Linter’s presence on the goal line. Linter dived and with a remarkable save at full stretch, directed the ball wide of the post. This was a pivotal moment in the game and gave North Down a much needed wake up to kick start their second half.
North Down grabbed control the game and increased their lead from a spectacular piece of team play. Gareth McKeown dribbled past two players before sliding the ball into space, behind the Portadown defence. James Clark calmly took the ball in his stride, playing it first time across the circle and Josh Gilmore was on hand to tap in on the back post.
Portadown continued to attack and win penalty corners but they could not beat Coates in goal. They resorted to trying short corner variations but the North Down defence dealt with these in a similar fashion. The finest example of which came again from Jordan Linter who dived head first towards the ball to deflect it away from the approaching forward.
Josh Gilmore then sealed the win for North Down with his second goal twelve minutes before full time. The Comber side were awarded a penalty corner and although Andrew McKibbin’s initial drag flick was saved, Gilmore pounced on the rebound and slammed it into the backboard.
Portadown were very unlucky not to score after the final whistle as they hit the post with a penalty corner effort. Nonetheless North Down held strong and saw the game out for an impressive win away from home.
PMB Man of the Match: Jordan Linter
Report from Andrew McKibbin.