AFTER a couple of shaky weeks the Ladies Banbridge firsts were hosting Carrickfergus at Havelock with high hopes for a win.
With Carrick Ladies sitting at the top of the league it was always going to be a tough match for Bann but with a couple of players back the team were feeling positive and confident.
The girls took it to the visiting team from the first whistle. From the frontline right back to the defence the girls put pressure on Carrickfergus with their possession play and had a few early chances to score.
Ten minutes into the game saw Bann win their first penalty corner. A solid sweep out from Ashlea Bell for Amanda Morton to stop gave Naomi Robb the perfect strike of the ball to make it 1-0.
The game restarted and Carrickfergus began to up their tempo and started to pass the ball well putting Bann on the back foot for a while. The defence and midfield had to work hard to keep them out of the circle with some classic textbook tackling from Diane McMillan and Megan McKenna.
Bann then began to attack again with some lovely passing from Debbie Whitten and Cathy Rees down both wings in midfield, feeding the ball through to the forward line well with the second goal came from a long corner from the right hand side of the pitch. Debbie worked her silky skills to beat a couple of defenders and get the ball into the circle. There were a couple of shots on goal but the Carrick keeper made some super saves. The ball was kicked out to Amy Atkinson who was at the top of the ‘D’ with space to shoot. She shot the ball which was deflected off a Carrick defenders stick and into the goal to make it 2-0 to the home team.
Confidence continued to rise in the Banbridge side and they continued to put Carrickfergus on the back foot with great passing play around the back and throughout the middle of the pitch.
The press on their defence worked very well with Anna Moore and Rachel Cairns doing some real leg work and forcing the visitors to make mistakes. Hard work was awarded when the girls won their second penalty corner of the game. Well practiced routines were evident.
The ball came to Naomi who sneakily slipped the ball passed the Carrick first runner out right to Rachel who then passed it back into Naomi who was waiting free on the penalty spot to slip the ball past the keeper to make it 3-0.
After the third goal the Bann girls then took the foot off the pedal again running up to half time.
Carrickfergus were not giving up without a fight and their skills meant that Bann were subject to a string of three penalty corners against them. Despite their best efforts to get the ball cleared third time proved to be a charm and Carrickfergus slotted the ball into the bottom right hand corner from a good strike to make it 3-1 just as the half time whistle was blown.
The second half began with as much drama as the first and Carrickfergus came out ready to fight back.
Tired legs began to show and the warm day drained the girls’ energy but they powered on. It remained quite evenly matched throughout most of the half with both teams attacking and defending well.
The fourth and final goal for Banbridge, however, was a real team effort and reflected the effort put in by the girls throughout the game. Some great defensive work from captain Ashlea Bell saw a Carrick attack cleared out of the danger zone. A loose ball was picked up by Orla Magee in midfield who used her silky skills to retain Bann possession and pass the ball to Amanda out on the left who picked out a perfectly weighted pass to Cathy making a run into the ‘D.’ Cathy smoothly picked up the ball and deflected it perfectly onto the backboard to make the score line 4-1 for the Banbridge Ladies.
The rest of the half was defended well and Carrickfergus could not crack the Bann defence. The game ended at 4-1 for the girls giving them a well-earned, decisive win.
The performance gives the girls a confidence boost for the season ahead. Big thanks to Sheree Totten and John Bell for umpiring the game and best of luck to the girls as they travel down to Cork this weekend to play in the first round of the Irish Challenge Cup.