Banbridge secure top spot in IHL’s Pool B

BANBRIDGE have secured their Irish Hockey League semi-final spot after picking up two more group stage wins at Havelock Park over the weekend.

With two more games remaining the locals are seven points clear of third placed Cork CoI, who they beat in the final game played on Saturday.

It was Cork who opened the stronger and the first chance of the match fell to Stephen Sweetnam who’s reverse stick shot was well saved by Gareth Lennox.

Bann slowly gained a foothold in the game and looked the more likely to open the score although they had to wait until the last minute of the quarter when Stephen Dowds converted the home sides third penalty corner high to the keepers right.

Three minutes into the second quarter clever play by Scott Forbes won another penalty corner and Dowds was on hand with a deflection to double the home’s team advantage.

On 30 minutes a determined run from Colin Dowds drew yet another penalty corner and when the ball broke in mid circle Matthew Bell was on hand to score.

With one minute of the half remaining another flowing move from the home team resulted in Bruce McCandless’s reverse stick shot finding the roof of the net. Banbridge took a 4-0 lead into the half time break

The second half followed a similar pattern to the end of the first with the home team dominating. It came as no surprise when Dane Ward scored Banbridge’s fifth again with a reverse stick shot from mid circle.

Cork eventually won their first penalty corner in the 48th minute from which Gareth Lennox deflected Sweetnam’s shot onto the cross bar and the did well to clear the rebound. Cork got onto the score sheet in the 50th minute when Simon Wolfe found himself unchallenged in the Banbridge circle after the home defence failed to deal with a bouncing ball.

Bann did not have to wait long for their sixth goal when Josh Moffett slapped home a rebound off the keepers pads. The scoring was completed in the 65th minute when Scott Caruth powerfully dragged home Banbridge’s seventh penalty corner.

- Stevie Dowds’ superb hat-trick ensured that Banbridge will go into the final two rounds of the Irish Hockey League at the top of Pool B.

Bann had a dream start and were three goals to the good after 10 minutes thanks to two goals from Dowds and Dane Ward.

Dublin YMCA tried to reduce the gap but when they did Bann stepped up a gear with Dowds wrapping up his hat-trick to make it three wins from three for the Ulster champions.