With Comber becoming somewhat of a fortress for North Down thirds, last Saturday became the first of four back to back away games for the league leaders. First up, a Lisnagarvey side that have had their own successful start to the season and will no doubt be pushing for promotion come the end of the season. North Down knew that this experienced side would offer a challenge and any points after 70 minutes would be a great result.
The thirds started well pressurising the home defence but an experienced backline was difficult to breakdown with the veterans taking back possession with well-timed tackles. The visitors soon realised that width was the key and pace behind the backline was the way forward. With Moore and both Proctor brothers having plenty of pace it wasn’t long before North Down made the breakthrough as Pyper disguised a pass beyond the last defender for Moore to continue his goal scoring streak and slot home with a cool finish on 3 minutes. The thirds made it 2-0 on 22 minutes with this time Moore playing an assisting role crossing to Johnny Proctor who drew the Garvey sweeper and laid off for Pyper who made no mistake and finished into the top corner. The hosts looked rattled and North Down sensed more goals. A third came 4 minutes later with Pyper feeding in Moore one on one with the keeper and on his rich vein of form never looked like missing.
Half time came and the game looked over but the second half was completely a different story. Reinforcements from the spectator gallery soon joined the field and it took the visitors too long to work out Garvey’s new system and playmakers. Every second tackle was a foul and the home umpire warned that the next would see a card. He was true to his word and Paul Revill soon saw yellow for a 5 minute break. North Down dropped a forward back into midfield however collectively could not find any shape. The hosts got one back from a well worked short after 46 minutes and even when the thirds were restored to full strength the balance had changed. Garvey pushed high to get back in the game and although North Down had chances that they should have converted on the break, the home side looked the likeliest to score again.
A well worked move left the Garvey centre forward one on one and skipper Walls lunged in from behind taking him out. The award of a penalty corner was a let off when a stroke seemed the clear choice. Walls, for his efforts, was yellow carded and the thirds were back to 10 men again. Garvey continued to press but when Revill was scythed down in the circle by veteran Mark Surgeon the home team had their own spell with ten men. With 2 minutes remaining another short corner was awarded to Garvey and a rash tackle from Walls sent the striker tumbling. After consultation between the umpires a penalty stroke was awarded this time and was well converted. Fortunately for the visitors only a minute of play was left and they saw the game out for another hard fought three points.
The change of Garvey personnel at half time may well have played its part however North Down had only themselves to blame and their lack of discipline in the second half almost cost them the game.
Man of the Match: Sam Pyper