Armagh Ladies 1st XI (0) v (3) Ballymena Ladies 1st XI
Saturday 4th March
Senior League 1
Ballymena stretched their unbeaten run to 10 league games with this comprehensive victory over Armagh on Thursday which sees them move into 2nd position in Senior League 1.
The run of results has coincided with quick starts in games and this was no exception as they gained 5 penalty corners in the first 15 minutes, where Rebecca Reynolds fired home a reverse stick sweep for her 18th goal of the campaign and set the tone for the match. Aimee Logan was responsible for winning 4 of those early set pieces and her discipline and stick work in a high area of the pitch proved a constant menace to the home team.
However Ballymena were indebted to the resilience of their back 4 in the period before half time as Armagh, with former international Aimee Stewart pulling the strings in midfield, pressed forward. Catherine McCracken, Grace McBurney, Susanne Morrison and Emma Clarke restricted Armagh to speculative efforts at goal.
In the second period, knowing one goal was not enough insurance to win the game, Ballymena pressed on with an excellent team effort full of ability and character. The forward line combinations opened up the Armagh defence regularly and from one of these attacks, the ever improving Emily Anderson’s drilled pass found Logan in the circle and after her initial shot was saved by the keeper, she reacted quickest to fire the ball home and double Ballymena’s lead.
Energy from Anne Crooks, ex Pegasus midfielder Emily Morrison and teenagers Emily Alexander and Grace McCready were now winning the midfield battles and in the last minute this allowed Stephanie Smith to win a 7th penalty corner, which saw Gillespie deflect home her 19th goal of an excellent individual season but critically the third goal which secured 3 vital points on a wet, windy night in the Orchard County.
This was a team performance full of togetherness and ability, which sees Ballymena move into the promotion play-off spot although league leaders Mossley and 4th place Rainey have games in hand.
Team: J. Davis (GK), A. Crooks, C. Gillespie(C), G. McBurney, E. Clarke,
R. Reynolds, S. Morrison, E. Anderson, A. Logan, G. McCready,
E. Alexander, C. McCracken, E. Morrison, S. Smith
CI Ladies 2nd XI (3) v (4) Ballymena Ladies 2nd XI
Saturday 4th March
Junior League 2
The Ladies 2nds travelled to CIYMS on Saturday unleashing a ferocious first half assault on CI to take a commanding lead that the home side just couldn’t recover from!
The opening passages of play saw Ballymena tackling and winning their midfield battles high up the pitch providing good chances for their forwards in the circle. Ballymena’s opening goal came from quick movement from right to left where Lyndsey McClintock slotted home in the ninth minute for 1-0. Ballymena continued their high press and when Nat Sye and Emma Johnston turned over the ball once again, a well-timed pass into the circle found Rachel Whyte on target with a first-time deflection to beat the keeper and double the visitors lead in only 12 minutes!
CI’s defence was rattled as Laura Logan and McClintock battled on the left flank to win a second penalty corner and on the switch play Rachel Whyte again doubled her tally for a 3-0 Ballymena lead.
With a short lull in the game Ballymena’s defence were called to action on a couple of pacey breaks but Ashleigh Harbinson, quickly stepped in to dis-possess and set the Ballymena attack again. After only 20 minutes of play, Ballymena found the net a fourth time from a scramble inside the circle with tremendous pressure from their forwards that saw the ball trickle over the line off the keeper.
Before the half, CI again caused trouble on the break, and won a couple of penalty corners. They managed to convert one of these to reduce the deficit to three at halftime.
In the second half CI came out fighting and forced Ballymena to defend in an uncomfortable, deep position! It was the second home goal that saw Ballymena make more use of their wide players at the back and with Holly Dickey and Erin Park finding space on the flanks, Ballymena managed to step out of defence and back into attack. Emma Clarke worked tirelessly to breakdown play in front of the back three and a couple of welcome saves from keeper Lauren Hanna maintained the visitor’s two goal advantage.
Towards the final whistle CI gained a third goal from another penalty corner, but with minutes to go Ballymena continued to clear their lines and force CI back deep into their own half to take the victory 4-3 at the final whistle.
The girls travel away again next week to Harlequins, needing further points to keep out of the relegation battle!
Thanks to PJ Whyte for umpiring.
Team: L. Hanna(GK), A. Harbinson, H. Dickey, E. Park, L. Logan, R. Whyte,
L. McClintock, E. Clarke, N. Sye(C), L. Brownlees, E. Johnston, C. Lorimer.
Ballymena Ladies 3rd XI (2) v (4) Banbridge Ladies 3rd XI
Saturday 4th March
Junior League 5
Cliftonville Men’s 2nd XI (2) v (2) Ballymena Men’s 1st XI
Saturday 4th March
Junior League 4
Ballymena travelled to Cliftonville on Saturday hoping to secure another 3 points. The opening period saw Ballymena fail to capitalise on the majority of possession and a number of gifted opportunities. The introduction of George Tumilson had an immediate effect though, with the forwards first touch a pin point cross to Archer who in turn fired the ball home for Ballymena's opener. Ballymena's second quickly followed with Andy Lorimer adding another to his seasons tally with a strike from a penalty corner routine.
Cliftonville found a route back into the game shortly after the restart with an attack down the right resulting in a penalty corner and a well-executed dragflick. The game was soon all square with another quick break finding an unmarked Cliftonville forward who had time and space to finish past the onrushing Richard McNabb in the Ballymena goal.
This second Cliftonville goal eventually spurred Ballymena back into life in the second half and the Braid men started to create some meaningful attacks again. A Sam Glass reverse was unfortunate not to find the roof of the net and Archer was unlucky after breaking through the defence not to have greater reward after attempting to round the keeper. Ballymena went on to win a series of penalty corners and from the last of these Lorimer's strike found a Cliftonville foot on the line. Fortunately for the home side a save from the penalty stroke denied Ballymena the win and with the final score 2-2 both teams had to settle for a share of the points.
Thanks to D Lorimer for umpiring.
Team: R McNabb(GK), C Hogg, D McDonald, R Jess, A Bell, E Archer, P Beattie, C Fulton(C),
A Linford, A Lorimer, A McKeown, S Glass, G Tumilson