Ards Leisure centre was the venue for North Down 5XI to take on “the mighty” Raphoe 4XI on Saturday afternoon. Unlike the reverse fixture earlier in the season, this time Raphoe were able to play against the real North Down 5XI – who were looking to exact revenge on the side that had ended there 12 month long unbeaten run.
The game started brightly with North Down taking the initiative, excellent work from Adam Milligan and Jason Purvis in the middle along with stout defending from Jonny Davidson and Roger Graham cut out any attacking play by Raphoe and kept the ball largely in their half.
It wasn’t long before the deadlock was broken. A mazy run by Purvis on the edge of the circle created the space to slide the ball into Bond. With the Raphoe Keeper already grounded Bond improvised to lift the ball into the back of the net to open the scoring. The advantage was soon doubled; Murray stared with the ball on the right before laying it off to Purvis. Purvis tickled the ball through to Bond who picked it up on his reverse. Bond crossed the ball from deep which passed through the keepers legs for Clarke to tap home from a yard.
North Down soon found themselves three up when a tricky trademark run by Clarke ended with a shot that rebounded from the keepers pads, unfortunately for Raphoe it only went as far as Bond who made no mistake from 7 yards.
Raphoe fought their way back into the game and were rewarded with a goal. A side line ball was picked up and crashed into the circle eluding all the defenders and falling to the Raphoe striker who tucked home with aplomb. The tie could have been very different as just moments later as uncharacteristically sloppy defending allowed Raphoe in again who hit the post.
Half time saw the introduction of Brown down the right wing whose trickery and “pace” caused Raphoe all sorts of problems and soon the visitors were undone early in the second half. A well worked short corner routine between Clarke and Milligan resulted in a simple tap in for Murray. North Down did not let up and seemingly set up camp in the Raphoe half. The proved to be the start of a devastating 15 minutes for the visitors, Murray soon doubled his tally for the day following a goal mouth scramble and then Brown beat three players down the wing before seeing his shot saved, unfortunately for Raphoe the ball dropped kindly for Murray who stroked home his hat-trick! Raphoe threatened on the counter and provided a few scares but a tighter defensive display seem to frustrate the visitors.
The scoring was eventually completed by Clarke who after more good work from Purvis and Murray was able to tap in a cross to the far post. All in all it was an excellent performance from the re-united North Down side that showed why they deserve their place as league leaders of Junior 6 come Christmas day. Man of the match: Simon Murray