Ballymena Hockey Club round-up: ‘Service’ with a smile for ladies!

BALLYMENA Hockey Club ladies’ First XI enjoyed a morale-boosting 4-1 win over Civil Service on Saturday.

From the off Ballymena quickly settled into their rhythm and Jessica Duncan, for the hosts, almost opened the scoring with a cheeky shot at goal after only a few minutes of play but her attempt shaved past the post much to the relief of the Service keeper.

Service then countered against the run of play and it was Grace McBurney who saved the hosts with an excellent block off the line.

Jessica Duncan on the right returned a stellar performance for the hosts and whither dribbling or passing the ball, she showed once again that she has the alertness and imagination to see and exploit openings that only she seems able to detect!

However it was Service who opened the scoring with a scrappy affair from a penalty corner. Ballymena certainly didn’t want to let this tie slip through their fingers and fought right back with an inch perfect ball from Clare Gillespie through to Aimee Logan and Lauren Kennedy was unlucky not to get that vital touch that would have evened the score-line.

Both teams tested each other’s defence but when Susanne Morrison, for the hosts, had a fizzing drive cleared off the line Aimee Logan was in prime position to slot one home from the acutest of angles to even the scoring at 1-1.

Just before the whistle then Jessica Duncan won a penalty corner for Ballymena and Susanne Morrison made it count to take the lead for the hosts 2-1 going into the break!

As the second half opened Susanne Morrison and Jessica Duncan formed a formidable alliance and the pair sensed a vulnerability in visitors defence. Good running too by Aimee Logan who won the host’s sixth penalty corner from which the resulting goal, courtesy of Sara Allen, was disallowed!

Nothing unfortunate about Ballymena’s next goal however, from Lauren Kennedy, from an impossible angle.

Ballymena’s next goal was initiated by a great individual run from Clare Gillespie who passed the ball to Leah Paul who duly punished the Service defence with a beautifully executed strike for the host’s fourth and her first goal in Ballymena shirt 4-1.

Such was the confidence in the Ballymena camp now that Service were pinned in their own half for the remainder of this tie in what was an overwhelming and well deserved victory.

Ballymena: Emma Leslie, Sara Allen, Grace McBurney, Zoe Dickson, Susanne Morrison (Capt) Jenny Sutherland, Catherine McCracken, Jessica Duncan, Becky Reynolds, Clare Gillespie, Aimee Logan, Lauren Kennedy, Leah Paul. Player of the match Jessica Duncan.

Ballymena II 4, Grosvenor 2: Ballymena got off to a strong start putting pressure on Grosvenor defence from the whistle. A few penalty corners came and went without the hosts managing to capitalise on their advantage.

Finally the pressure paid off and it was Lorna Murphy who broke the deadlock with a strong strike to slot the ball home for a well deserved lead for the hosts.

Grosvenor fought right back, winning a penalty corner and managed to even the scoring at 1-1. Ballymena’s response was a rather lack lustre affair and their attacks only left them looking more vulnerable at the back. Grosvenor sensed this and managed to snatch a second goal before the hosts realised what had happened 2-1.

Following the restart it was Grosvenor who seized the initiative and following a period of simple hockey where the basics were done right the visitors slotted home their third goal 3-1.

A Grosvenor fourth goal a short time later put the tie beyond the host’s reach although Sharon Reid did pull one back for Ballymena it was too little too late as Ballymena lacked the conviction and determination they have displayed in previous games this season.

MEN

NICS 2, Ballymena II 1: Ballymena Men’s 2nd XI travelled to Stormont on Saturday to play NICS, fully expecting to return with 3 points to extend their lead over a team currently one place behind them on the table.

It was a tough first half for the away side defending into bright sunshine and Service certainly took advantage with some early short corners, but failed to convert.

The only goal of the half was gifted to Service from a defensive clearance straight into the path of one of their forwards, who quickly attacked the Ballymena goal drawing defenders and laid off a pass for a strike just beyond the reach of James Birrell.

As the second half commenced Ballymena finally found some rhythm. Aaron Murphy made an impressive break down the left flank and, when Service failed to close the youngster down, he seized the opportunity to even the score with a rasping drive into the back of the Service net . Ballymena sparked again and further chances came and went, the best of which saw Phil Moody and Matt Corbett ‘two on one’ with the last Service defender but the visitors, again frustrated by a lack of incisiveness, failed to capitalise.

Unfortunately for Ballymena, a spell of sustained Service pressure and a run of five penalty corners finally paid off for the hosts who scored their second goal in the final quarter 2-1. With several minutes to go Ballymena attempted to press the hosts and Tory Alexander had a chance to equalise but an off-balance strike went wayward and Ballymena were resigned to defeat.

Thanks again go to Davy Lorimer for travelling up with the team to umpire in very difficult conditions.

Ballymena: James Birrell (GK), Alister Hanna (Capt), Dave Bradley, Ethan Archer, Ken Murphy, Aaron Murphy, Mark Monteith, Matthew Corbett, Phil Moody, Tim Lowry, Tory Alexander, Matthew O’Neill, Andrew Shields.