By Steven McGimpsey
North Down entertained Portadown on Saturday at Enler knowing that a win would almost guarantee a Premiership playoff. This was perhaps their downfall as Portadown started the game with a higher intensity and stronger desire with North Down chasing the ball for large spells of the first half. Quick passing and strong teamplay saw Portadown compose some good hockey with the home team by standers in the game.
Portadown secured their first goal from a well worked shortcorner, the ball being switched back to the injector who finished calmly behind the North Down defence. Better composure on the ball resulted in some strong flowing hockey from North Down but the end product did not materialise, with the final ball not up to scratch. North Down had a great chance to level the score at the end of the half with Philip Wilson unlucky not to convert, his deflection flying over the helpless Portdown keeper and above the crossbar.
The second half saw much more dominance from the home side who clearly realised they
needed to pressurise their counterparts if they were to salvage something from the game. Portadown again continued to string consecutive passing moves together which at times penetrated the North Down defensive line from good counter attack play. Gareth McBride in goal for the home side was excellent and had many influential saves both in the first and second halves, keeping the score down from what it could have been. Portadown were then awarded a penalty stroke from a shortcorner, which was duly converted.
North Down continued to put significant pressure on their opponents and created countless opportunites in front of the Portadown goal but were unable to convert. It was the visitors who had the last say of the day when they capitalised on a defensive error with the ball being passed around the helpless McBride and finished by the Portadown forward. The game finished 3-0 to Portadown.
This was an extremely disapointing result for North Down but thoroughly deserved by Portadown. The Comber side now have to make the return trip in a fortnight knowing that only a win will secure a potential place in the playoff for the Premiership spot. A greatly improved performance will be required from every squad member if they are to reach the top flight next season.