North Down travelled to Stormont on Sunday to play Civil Service in the semi final of the Irish Trophy. The large crowd was treated to an entertaining game which had six goals and a penalty shootout to determine the outcome.
The first half saw both sides probe for openings but goal scoring opportunities were at a premium. Service took the lead after 10 minutes when the left winger found acres of space in the circle and crashed the ball into the roof of the net. North Down enjoyed the bulk of the possession but were too slow in moving the ball around and exposing a pedestrian Service defence. North Down’s best chance fell to coach Gareth McKeown when he found space at the back post and was picked out with a beautiful pass from Linter but he failed to control a bouncing ball and the chance was lost. Service were dangerous on the break leaving their centre forward as a lone runner up front and it took timely interceptions from McKibbin and Linter to ensure that he did not get a run in on goal.
The second half saw North Down up the pace and they deservedly equalised from a short corner. The ball was switched to McKeown and his unstoppable flick flew into the roof of the net. Further corners were won but Hamill made some fine saves. Linter made a fine run from deep in his own half and when in the circle slipped the ball to Clark who flicked home for an excellent goal. North Down further extended their lead when they won a free on the 25. The ball was quickly played into the circle and Moore was on hand to slip home. Hamill got a yellow card for questioning the umpire’s decision but North Down were unable to take advantage of the situation failing to get a shot while the keeper was of the pitch.
Service were restored to 11 players with 12 minutes remaining and with North Down falling too deep and temporarily losing their shape, they won a corner and the veteran Gill slammed home. Service had their tails up and pushed for the equaliser. Gill got the important third when poor defending allowed him to dribble along the byline and flick home from a narrow angle. With 5 minutes remaining and 4 minutes injury time played, neither team was able to add to the score. So, ……… straight to penalty run ins and North Down had the perfect start with Morris scoring and Service missing their first two. However with North Down failing to score their next three Service ran out winners by 3-1.
A disappointed North Down team who did not deserve to lose left the field while Service were left to begin their celebrations. We wish them well in the final to be held in Dublin later in the season.
PMB Man of the Match: James Clark