North Down ladies 1sts bounced back from last week’s heavy and disappointing defeat to Ballymoney with an important win over Portadown. It was the old cliché of the game being a real “six pointer” with North Down on 10 points going into the game and Portadown on 7.
The visitors looked like a different side to the one that had slumped to defeat the week before and set the early pace. Short sharp passing saw the Comber girls keep the ball for long periods and they soon opened the scoring. Katharine Hill picked the ball up just outside the 25 and drove into the circle before unleashing a reverse stick shot into the bottom corner. North Down did not rest on their lead and were soon two goals to the good when good build up play from Rachel Lucas left Emma Hill with a tap in. North Down nearly went 3 up soon after when Lucas, who was hassling and harrowing the Portadown defence, went for a first time shot from a cross however with the keeper caught totally flat footed the ball struck the bottom of the post. Portadown began to find their feet a little in the later part of the first half and won a couple of short corners but these were easily dealt with by Trish Neill in the North Down goal. Portadown then pulled a goal back when their danger player received the ball unmarked mid circle, with her back to goal she was able to turn and shoot early and suddenly despite all North Down’s dominance the game was very much alive. However rather than get edgy, which has been the case before, North Down continued to play good team hockey and were able to restore their two goal cushion when Bethan Brittain finished off a short corner. Half time 1-3
The second half was a much closer contest as Portadown gained in confidence and North Down started to make little mistakes which had not been the case in the first half. Play swung from end to end although Portadown failed to really create any clear cut chances and Neill had little to do in the visitors goal as the North Down defence kept her well protected. North Down had chances to increase their lead from short corners and in open play. With Portadown pushing hard for a goal they were hit on a quick counter attack, Lauren Brown found Rachel Lucas who had a nice run in behind the Portadown defence, she outpaced the last defender and she eliminated the Ports keeper however she had managed to force Lucas wide enough to make the angle difficult and her effort hit the side netting. With only a couple of minutes remaining Katharine Hill danced along the back line past three players however she was chopped down right in front of the net and a short corner was awarded when a penalty stroke seemed to be a more appropriate justice. The corner came to nothing but North Down were able to keep possession for the remaining few minutes and see the game out. This was an important win as the girls now face a tough trio of games against Randalstown, Harlequins and Lurgan and North Down’s injury list is only getting longer as captain Laura Clarke and U16 representative player Laura McCaw were added and missed this game as a result.
Report by Laura Clarke