The Ladies 1stXI played host to Ballyclare on Wednesday night in a rearranged league game and cruised to a 3-0 victory. Ballyclare have been a bit of a bogey team this year. The Ladies drew 1-1 early in the league campaign and suffered a 2-1 loss in the Irish Trophy so they were keen to make amends for these results and also to claim back third place in the league, but most importantly was the continuation of playing good hockey.
For the first half the game was a midfield battle with little being given by either side. North Down were running into flat sticks and their usual slick passing game was letting them down. Ballyclare had one chance in the half but ‘keeper Da Costa kept the shot out, and this turned out to be her only action of the entire game, which is testament to the great work the defence put in.
The half time team talk was simple, if you’re taking players on, use 3D skills, something which has been worked on, and keep the play away from Ballyclares two centre backs who were having a great game and were their best players on the night. With that taken on board, North Down attacked straight form the start of the second half. Good play up the left by Rebecca Mercer and Rachel Lucas, who was making her 1stXI debut, resulted in a chance for Olivia Brown but unfortunately she couldn’t beat the goalkeeper. North Down scored five minutes later with their first penalty corner of the match. Amy Benson finished of the set piece after good work again by Rebecca Mercer. Shortly after, one of the Ballyclare centre backs sustained a bad injury to a finger and had to leave the pitch and wouldn’t return. This proved costly as North Down scored two more goals when she was off the pitch. Another penalty corner goal, this time from Laura Clarke, and an individual goal by Amy Benson put the result beyond doubt. Discipline was proving costly for Ballyclare as well with one player green carded and their coach being warned of his conduct!
All in all this was North Downs best performance of the season. The defence was superb and keeper Da Costa was delighted with a clean sheet. The squad now has five defenders who are all playing well so the pressure is on to train hard and stake a claim for the four positions available. The midfield is now settled with the two Rebecca’s (Mercer and Mitchell-Cram) playing either side of Laura Clarke and the forward line is a great blend of youth and experience.
The next match is Ballymena away on Saturday 9th February. The winner of this will have the upper hand in the battle for third position.