A VERY creditable draw

CONSIDERING the outcome of their previous encounter with Quins, where Ballymena conceded five goals and also the visitor’s recent league form then it would be an understatement to suggest that the hosts had resigned themselves to the magnitude of the task in hand.

Having said this the Ballymena coach, Mary Glass, had drilled her squad in readiness for the tie. As play commenced a familiar pattern emerged with Quins demonstrating exactly why they are the undefeated league leaders.

Throughout this season ‘a force of nature’ in the form of Emma Leslie and Sara Allen at the back afforded the visitors no quarter and denied Quins an early goal. Morrison, Reynolds and Duncan too were a formidable force in midfield with capricious tackling and movement off the ball. Reynolds showed her usual grit and determination marking the Quins play maker and shutting her down at every opportunity.

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Unfortunately her zeal was rewarded with a yellow card mid-way through the first half for a brawny tackle. Quins piled it on and were really gifted their first goal due to a defensive error which left the Ballymena goal open 0-1.

This soft goal served to dent the host’s confidence somewhat although their fighting spirit was still very much in evidence. The Ballymena forwards, namely Logan, Gillespie, Young, McMullan and Kennedy were truly tireless and their sheer energy really frustrated the Quin’s defence throughout this tie.

Sure enough Ballymena’s effort was rewarded in the thirty-third minute with two successive penalty corners, the second of which resulted in the host’s levelling the score at 1-1. Morrison crossed the ball across the goal mouth to the right post where a perfectly placed Reynolds dinked it in.

Ballymena were on the ascendency as play commenced in the second half and suddenly a league upset was firmly in their sights. However, Quins fought back hard despite the Ballymena onslaught but, it has to be said, that the contribution of Sara Allen in defence, the swathing runs of Grace McBurney up the right side and Sutherland’s marking all served to close down any designs the visitors had on the Ballymena goal.

Dickson and Linford held strong on the left and for her part Morrison tackled battled and denied the visitors the space they craved.

Quins final opportunity came towards full time with two penalty corners which were easily cleared by the host’s keeper Emma Leslie. In response the Ballymena forwards rattled the Quins defence in the final five minutes and should have scored but the game played out at 1-1.

The final whistle saw some justifiable celebration on the part of the hosts and realistically this was moral victory for Ballymena who had matched the best in the league stroke for stroke, tackle for tackle and goal for goal! And considering these were the only points this Quins side have conceded all season no one could deny this Ballymena side their moment of glory.

Credit to the Ballymena coach too who had prepared her squad mentally and physically for this contest which nicely rounded up the season at home for the Ballymena 1st XI, given that their two remaining matches are both away.

Leslie, Allen, Mcburney, Sutherland, Linford, Dickson, Morrison, Duncan, Reynolds, McMullan, Young, Gillespie, Logan, Kennedy, Player of the match: Reynolds

SECONDS

Womens 2nd XI 1, Pegasus 3rd XI 1: Ballymena got off to a strong start with Sarah Mcbride switching play to both sides of the pitch and her alliance with Sharon Reid enabled the latter to penetrate the Pegasus defence with ease. Ballymena did manage to carve out a few early opportunities at goal but simply couldn’t convert. Similarly Lynsey McClintock, for the host’s, was making her presence felt on the left wing and managed to secure a number of penalty corners. Again the goal eluded Ballymena and added to their frustration.

A final push before half time then returned the desired result though when Sarah McBride off loaded the ball down the centre of the park to an eagerly awaiting Lorna Murphy who slotted the ball into the back of the net to break the deadlock 1-0 going into half time.

As play resumed Pegasus emerged a more determined force and immediately put the Ballymena defence under immense pressure. The Ballymena back line stood firm and dismissed the visitor’s designs on their goal efficiently and initiated a counter of their own.

Sharon Reid spearheaded the Ballymena offensive and fired in a speculative shot at the Pegasus goal although this was easily dealt with by the host’s defence. Ballymena committed numbers up front and set up camp outside the Pegasus ‘D’ scooping up any cleared balls and firing them back at the, buy now, beleaguered visitors defence. One such attempt on the Pegasus goal was initiated by Sarah Cundell again to no avail. Still Ballymena pressed and won further penalty corners but still the goal eluded them. Credit to the visitor’s defence though as they soaked up anything that Ballymena threw at them and indeed when they did manage to break away they pretty much caught the host’s on the hop. The resulting passage of play afforded the visitors the opportunity of a strike at goal and this time they made no mistake 1-1. It has to be said that this was a disappointing result for Ballymena given that they managed to draw 2-2 with Pegasus on their last encounter.

This time with home advantage and match statistics very much in their favour they simply failed to capitalise on their many opportunities in front of the Pegasus goal.

Team: Rebecca mccandless; Kirsty McMaster; Sarah Cundell; Nicola Greer; Ashleigh harbison; Sharon Reid; Lynsey McClintock; Sarah Mcbride; Laura Logan; Lorna Murphy; Stephanie storey; Aimee Logan; Grace McBurney.

Womens 4th XI 0, Ballynahinch 2nd XI 3: Ballymena Ladies 4th XI travelled to Ballynahinch on Saturday hoping to improve their league form and ranking. Unfortunately for Ballymena though Hinch’s strength and experience proved formidable and the host’s took the lead from a short corner strike after only five minutes of play 1-0.

A shell shocked Ballymena regrouped though and upped their game to the point where the hosts found themselves on the back foot.

Imogen Magee and Judith Morrow ceased control of the midfield, ably assisted by Nikki McClure, spreading the ball wide to stretch the Hinch defence. Try as they might though Ruth Andrews and Karen Cherry couldn’t shake off the experienced home side’s centre backs. The period that followed was end to end, with Sandra Dallas and Liz O’Kane providing the defensive master class and Charlotte Andrews and Rebecca McPeake the attacking spearhead. Although this strategy continued to frustrate the Hinch defence it failed to carve out any goal scoring opportunities for the visitors. As the half drew to a close though Ballymena were forced to defend their goal line following a Hinch offensive. They defended valiantly for a time, credit in the main to the Ballymena keeper Lauren Hanna, who pulled off a number of instinctive saves from close range! Unfortunately for the visitors though the ball was eventually nudged over the line to afford the host’s a 2-0 lead at half time.

As play restarted Ballymena continued to play to their strengths, moving the ball around with confidence in an effort to sap their opponent’s strength! Charlotte Andrews came close, for the visitors, in a one to one with their keeper as she mooched behind their sweeper to latch onto a McPeake pass, only to shoot just wide of the post! At the other end of the pitch Liz O’Kane found herself on the wrong side of some very physical challenges, although the combination of Hanna and Dallas managed to repel the Hinch onslaught, for a time at least! Credit to Dallas, who despite her nursing a knee injury, played one of her best games this season. Despite their efforts though and a flurry towards the end the visitors conceded a further goal from a soft tap in at the back post 3-0. This was by no means a poor performance from Ballymena, who were unlucky throughout against a typically physical Ballynahinch side. The visitors returned an excellent team effort and should draw some gratification from the commitment displayed by each and every team member in the face of formidable opposition.

Team: Lauren Hanna(GK), Sandra Dallas, Karen Cherry, Rebecca McPeake, Liz O’Kane, Nikki McClure, Charlotte Andrews, Ruth Andrews, Imogen Magee, Judith Morrow.