North Down travelled to Deramore Park on Saturday to play Harlequins in their second Premier League game of the season. The resultant 6-3 defeat would indicate that it was a walkover for the Belfast side however this was far from the case. North Down were ahead twice in the game which was then tied at 3-3 for most of the second half. It was only in the closing 9 minutes that Harlequins’ superior fitness and greater resources on the bench finally told as they ran in three decisive goals.
North Down started with a bang. Three minutes in and a run from Phil Wilson led to a short corner which David Shepherd slammed into the back board. Minutes later, Wilson shot wide when well placed and on 10 minutes Harlequins hit back when a run along the bye line led to a tap in goal by Steve Magrath. Three minutes later and Harlequins went ahead. A North Down defender was penalised for a stick tackle and although Gareth McBride did well to save the first penalty corner shot, Luke McClelland was first to the rebound and slotted home to make it 2-1.
Harlequins had a spell in control helped by the fact that the visitors had no recognised strikers on the subs bench but North Down were back on terms again on 23 minutes when great work by Tom Donnan led to a second penalty corner. This time David Shepherd rattled the back board with a slap shot. Four minutes later and North Down got a fortuitous break when the umpire wrongly penalised Harlequins for not retreating at a free on the edge of the circle and awarded another penalty corner which Shepherd flicked high into the net to put North Down back in front and complete his hat trick. It could even have been 4-2 at the break except for a fine save by a home defender on the line to rescue his shell shocked keeper.
Two minutes into the second half and Chris Lemon with a strong shot from the edge of the circle brought it back to 3-3 and put the visitors under pressure for a sustained period. Gareth McBride was in great form to save from a series of penalty corners and on 50 minutes David Shepherd did well to recover from a slip which looked to have left Chris Lemon free on goal.
Two more saves in quick succession from McBride kept the visitors in the game but tired legs started to tell and Harlequins finally went ahead again on 76 minutes with a breakaway goal. A two on one with McBride led to Lemon rounding the keeper and scoring past Mark Linter on the line. Two minutes later Adam McClelland scored from close in to settle the game and right on the final whistle Chris Lemon completed the second hat trick of the game when he deflected a drive into the circle to give McBride no chance and flatter the home team with a 6-3 scoreline.
Report by Robin Mitchell