BANBRIDGE ACADEMY 1 STRATHEARN 0
Banbridge Academy will meet Ballyclare High School in the final of the Ulster Schoolgirls’ Senior Hockey Cup final on March 6 after this win on Wednesday. Bann started favourites but Strathearn put up a terrific battle belying their underdog status. Bidding to progress to the final for the first time since 1992, the Belfast school had two shots cleared off the line and a goal disallowed, winning the the penalty corner count 8-3. Nadia Benallal was the heroine of the hour, scoring the all-important early goal that eventually won the game although she also missed a penalty stroke shortly after the restart. Academy coach Neil Madeley felt that the big occasion perhaps got to his players. “Cup semi-finals can be nervy affairs and so it proved and rather than steady ourselves with that early goal, it seemed to spur Strathearn on,” he said. “They had us under a lot of pressure at times in the game and I thought Ellen Reid had a great game for us at the back, thankfully.” After a cagey opening spell, Bann took the lead in the 12th minute when Benallal fired home a rebound from the right channel after Katie McDonald’s shot from the first penalty corner of the game had been blocked. However, instead of settling any early nerves for their opponents, that setback seemed to be just the incentive Strathearn needed as they mounted a series of attacks. Almost immediately, Jenny Wilson had a shot taken of the line by Holly Hannah and then the Strathearn striker had a set-piece effort saved by Rebecca Spence. From another corner, Kate Wills’s deflected shot was stopped by a Bann defender close to the line and then came that disallowed goal. Erin Stewart’s effort crashed off the post from yet another set-piece and Wills knocked in the rebound but the ‘goal’ was ruled out because the ball hadn’t gone outside the circle before the initial shot was taken. Six minutes into the second half, Academy were awarded a penalty stroke after ‘feet’ on the line but Benallal’s strike went wide. Strathearn continued to have the edge after that, winning three more corners but they were unable to find an equaliser.