North Down seconds made the trip to Kilkeel HS on Saturday to take on a strengthened Kilkeel 2nd XI. North Down knew this would be a tough task and the pre-match chat firmly focused on a good start to the game. This game saw the return of Mark Linter to join brother Jordan in defence with Paul Johnston and Colin Mockford making up the back four. With Steven McGimpsey and Richard Willis both out, the versatile Peter Shields stepped in at centre midfield to release the young forward line of Stephen Forrest, Adam Tate and Stevie Magee.
The match started at a fast pace with North Down exerting early pressure but Kilkeel always looking dangerous on the counter attack. Five minutes in and Paul Johnston had to retire injured so a reshuffle was required with Mark Shannon slotting in at left midfield and Ryan Galway in at right back. This reduced the squad to a mere 11 and this would take its toll as the game wore on. The positional disruption didn’t seem to deter North Down and the pacy forward line caused continual problems to an experienced Kilkeel defence. A number of chances went begging at both ends with Galway and Tate missing out. As the first half drew to a close, the seconds played some skilful inter-changing hockey and after a good combination between Forrest and Tate, Forrest finished with an impressive reverse shot. This was a just reward on the stroke of half time and the seconds went in at the break feeling satisfied but knowing there was a long way to go.
Kilkeel started the second half at a frantic pace and caught North Down napping but were unable to capitalise on the initial pressure. The second half saw North Down absorbing pressure well with Matt Jordon in goals and the defence putting in a great shift. Even though Kilkeel dominated position at this stage, North Down looked dangerous going forward but just couldn’t find that final ball to score the vital second goal. As legs started to tire, Kilkeel managed to grab an equaliser after good pressure on the North Down goal. This was tough on the seconds who continued to fight against an ever changing Kilkeel forward line who benefited from subs coming on and off. Shortly after the equaliser, Kilkeel found themselves in front after dispossessing a North Down player and scoring after a series of unfortunate touches and half clearances. With around 10 minutes left, North Down tried earnestly to find the equaliser and although the effort was there, the effects of playing with the same 11 men made it difficult for the seconds to get the breakthrough.
The game ended 2-1 to Kilkeel and the North Down players were bitterly disappointed after a very impressive performance from the whole squad. Particular mention goes to Mark Linter, Peter Shields and Stephen Forrest who had very impressive games.