North Down entertained Newry last Saturday at Comber Leisure Centre knowing that a victory was a must if they were to have any hope of securing their Premier League place.
The first half was dominated by North Down and it was no surprise when they took the lead from a penalty corner in the tenth minute which was expertly converted by David Shepherd. Soon after they got their second when Gareth McKeown cleverly created space on the left and crossed for Phil Wilson to score. Newry were struggling to keep pace with North Down and went further behind when Stevie Dalzell scored at the far post. With added time being played and against the run of play Newry pulled a goal back with a strong reverse shot from the top of the circle.
The second half was a different story as panic crept into the North Down team and they lost their discipline going down to nine players on two occasions. Newry piled on the pressure but McArthur and his defence held firm. With 15 minutes remaining the ball broke kindly for Taylor and he smashed it past McArthur to set up a frantic finish. Newry thought they had equalised from a corner but it was correctly ruled out for feet. North Down were still dangerous on the break and Shepherd had a chance to finish the game off from a corner but the keeper made a fine save. With all the stoppages, about eight minutes extra time were played giving both sets of defences some anxious moments but to North Down’s relief the final whistle went without any further score.
This victory means that South Antrim are automatically relegated and Newry and North Down must complete their final single fixtures to confirm who plays the runner up team in Senior 1 for the final place in the Premier League. Currently they are level on both points and goal difference with Newry to play Harlequins and North Down at home to Mossley. If the positions remain the same a play off will be required between Newry and North Down to determine eighth and ninth positions.
PMB Man of the Match: David Shepherd
Report by Reuben Minchell