North Down started their Premier League campaign at home against South Antrim looking to make it three wins in a row. This promised to be an entertaining game and North Down knew they would have to be in top form as South Antrim would be looking for revenge following their Irish Trophy defeat at the hands of the Comber men last season. Both teams observed a minute’s silence before the game as a tribute to popular Belfast Harlequins’ stalwart member Philip Duke who died suddenly a week ago.
Right from the off the umpires had a big decision to make not remembering who won the toss for pass back. After a gentle reminder from skipper Ross Linter, North Down were rightfully allowed to start the game and we were underway.
The first half was a tight affair with North Down controlling the game but struggling to break down a defensively minded South Antrim. South did have some chances on the break but after winning a number of short corners the North Down defenders were wise to opposition tactics and soon cancelled out any further chances. The South Antrim bench seemed unhappy with the umpires and some unsavoury words were directed towards them, North Down used this to add fuel to flames and took the lead through Phil Wilson. A rasping shot hit the unsuspecting South keeper in the chest but the spin on the ball took it into the net as it landed.
With North Down taking the lead, this encouraged South Antrim to come out and play and they were back on level terms shortly through James Brown for the visitors to make it 1-1. South continued to push on with North Down on the back foot and following a short corner drag flick, which was initially well saved by Coates, James Brown forced home for his second of the day to put the Lisburn team ahead. The goal was somewhat controversial as North Down felt Coates had been fouled in South’s attempt to bundle the ball home but that was the decision of the umpires so North Down got on with the task in hand.
The play was end to end with both teams winning short corners but it was South Antrim who were made to pay when up stepped Andrew McKibbin to slam a drag flick between the South Antrim keeper’s legs to level the score at 2-2. With time running out the chances continued to fall to both sides, but with North Down pushing for the win that they deserved, a long ball found Josh Gilmore in the circle. He took control and, in what seemed like an age, dribbled out of the circle, back in, and off the back foot unleashed a shot to the back post to seal the win.
PMB Man of the Match: David Morris.
Report from Gareth McBride.