South Antrim 1-4 NICS (C.Henry)
Last weekend saw South travel to Stormont hoping they could build on what was an improved performance last week against Portadown. Having drawn previously with NICS 2-2 earlier in the season, and dominating much of the match, South were confident coming into this fixture that they could pick up some points. That confidence showed in the early exchanges as South took the game to Service from the offset. However, it was the home side who capitalised first through a trademark Chris Barnes dragflick, leaving Mark Hutchinson no chance. Service soon added a second after a controversially raised ball into the D was dispatched by one of their forwards. Despite being 2 goals down, South continued to dominate much of the play but they squandered several chances less than 5 yards out from goal. Again, another decision seemed to go against South as James Brown had a stroke appeal turned down after his shot was prevented from going in after hitting a service body on the line. Just before halftime, South had another glorious chance to get back into the game after Adam Marshall skilfully ran along the baseline but his ball across the front of goal evaded everyone. South went into half time 2-0 down but knew that if they continued to play the way they were they’d soon be rewarded.
After the interval, South again battered Service for 20 minutes with captain Lee Marshall pulling the strings and creating a number of chances. Chris Henry was also threatening throughout and deservedly scored after a surging run to reduce the deficit. Following this goal, South continued to press with Darren Hutchinson, James Brown and Matthew Getty all having good chances to pull the side level. However, as South continued to push bodies forward – looking for the equaliser – NICS caught them out with a breakaway goal and soon added a fourth after an initial short corner was cleared only to eventually squirm between the legs of Hutchinson. South will be disappointed not to get anything from the game after dominating for large portions. But, that is sport and the boys can take some solace from the fact they have played some terrific hockey in recent weeks despite getting no points. The men must regroup before the likely season defining fixtures of North Down, Mossley and Raphoe over the next week.
South Antrim 2nds 7-1 Bangor 2nds (N.Wilson x3, M.Conn x2, N.Gamble, C.Varghese)
Saturday saw South Antrim 2nd XI host second placed Bangor in the league. Having previously been beaten 5-0 by the same team 2 months ago, South knew that it would take a strong performance to take anything from the game. Surprisingly however, it was South who started the stronger of the two teams immediately pressing Bangor deep in their own territory. This hard work was rewarded when South eventually took the lead through a lobbed reverse from Mark Conn. One goal became two when a slick short corner routine was stopped on the line by a Bangor foot, up stepped Neil Wilson who calmly slotted home the penalty stroke to double the lead. South didn’t ease up as the half went on and right on the stroke of half time won a short corner as Conn found a Bangor foot in the circle. The resulting corner was empathically put away by Nathan Gamble to put South Antrim 3-0 up at the interval. At the start of the second half Bangor began to find some of the form and immediately struck back through a short corner, this did not however, deter the Lisburn men who immediately struck back with 2 goals of their own. The first a thumping reverse from Cyril Varghese into the bottom corner leaving the Bangor goalkeeper no chance and the second yet another cool finish from Neil Wilson who found himself in acres of space at the top of the circle. With South leading 5-1 the game was all but over, however, South continued to push for yet more goals and eventually found a 6th when Mark Conn slammed home a rebound from yet another South Antrim short corner. 6 goals became 7 when Conn found Wilson who was again in acres of room. This time Wilson chose to finish on the reverse completing his hattrick and ultimately the win for the Lisburn side. The final score 7-1 just showed how far this team has come since their 5-0 hammering by Bangor and that when playing at home they are more than a match for any team in their league.
South Antrim 4ths 2-3 Down 1sts (A.Hamilton Jnr, C.McCandless)
South Antrim 4ths travelled to Downpatrick for the rare occurrence these days of playing on a gravel pitch. Considering most of South’s young team has never played on the shale they knew they would be in for a tough and very different hockey match. Down started the brighter of both teams and scored early in the first half with a fierce hit. South grew into the game but went another goal down with a strong hit from the top of the area. South continued to battle and got a goal through Callum McCandless following a deft deflection at the front post by Junior. South went into the break 2-1 down and were again looking at a 2 goal deficit when Down got a third following confusion in the D leaving goalkeeper Andrew Wallace helpless. Wallace had a great game and in truth South could have been further behind had it not been for his keeping. South determined to fight back got another goal back from 4ths superstar striker Junior who beat the keeper with a well placed shot into the top left after Archie Collins had hit the post. Down rode out the storm and were able to finish the match without conceding the equaliser that South were very close to finding. The 4ths can be proud of giving Down a very close game on a surface that no one on the team was used to and will press on and continue to fight for promotion.
South Antrim 5ths 7-1 Antrim 3rds (I.McElhinney x2, N.Donald x2, J.Deane x2, B.Faulkner)
With Antrim just 3 points below South this was a must win for the home team. With the pre-match team talk emphasising the importance of the match South started strong and pressurised the Antrim defence. With McCormack controlling the middle of the park and the South team pressing high Antrim couldn’t get out of their half. The pressure finally paid off when McElhinney crossed across the face of the goal for a Donald tap in. With south continuing to dominate a change in short corner routine say a Deane drag flick beating the Antrim keeper high into the roof of the net. McElhinney then made it 3 before half team. The 2nd half had hardly started when South went 4 up. Faulkner broke free and a one two round the keeper left him with a tap in. 2 mins later Donald got his second when Bell broke down the right and fired a cross in for Donald to control and slip past the keeper. With the south defence sitting on the half way line it wasn’t long before McElhinney got his 2nd with a reverse stick shot beating the keeper at the near post. Antrim eventually got one back on a counter attack. But straight away South continued to pressurise the Antrim defence and Deane got his 2nd and South’s 7 from another Short corner.
South Antrim Ladies 1-0 Ballynahinch Ladies (S.Neill)
The ladies got the win they needed over Ballynahinch to keep their cup dreams alive. And they even did it without their schoolgirls and veteren defensive stalwart Joanne Clarke. A Steph Neill goal was enough to separate the sides.
South Antrim Ladies 2nds 4-0 South Antrim Ladies 3rds (D.Healsey, A.Wright, L.Boomer, L.Stewart)
No quarter given as the 3rds romped to victory over their XI clubmates. Carol Redpath was the midfield dynamo on the day but couldn’t stop the 2nd XI juggernaut as Danielle Healsey, Amy Wright, Lauren Boomer and Lucy Stewart got their names on the scoresheet.