The double is still on for Firsts

HAVING already won the league title Banbridge Ladies Firsts travelled to Annadale on Saturday to compete in the quarter final of the Intermediate Cup.

Banbridge have already met Annadale twice this season whilst fulfilling their league fixtures and therefore knew that Annadale would be tough opposition.  Previous matches have been toughly fought out affairs usually going to the wire before Ban have secured the win and Saturdays game was the same story.

From the whistle both teams looked lively and although Banbridge dictated the game they struggled to string passes together often hitting straight to an Annadale player. 

Annadale capitalised on Banbridge’s mistakes when an Annadale player picked up a misplaced pass before passing to one of her team-mates who had been waiting unmarked on Bann’s 25 yard line. Banbridge gave the forward too much room and she was allowed to enter the circle and get her shot off.  There was nothing that the Ban keeper could do to prevent the ball from crossing the line.

The Banbridge girls found themselves in unfamiliar territory trailing by one goal, but somehow this was the kick the girls needed to step up their game.  Possession of the ball got better and often resulted in a shot at goal but Jenna Henning in the Annadale goal was in superb form making numerous saves to keep her team in the lead.

Constant Bann pressure midway through the first half resulted in Sarah Quinn winning the ball in Annadale’s defensive 25. 

Sarah drove forward before slipping the ball wide to Rachel Cairns.  Rachel made a quick pass to Amy Atkinson who drove towards the backline before slipping the ball to a brilliantly positioned Anna Moore who was able to work the ball past Annadale’s keeper with a first time reverse stick deflection. Banbridge had found their equaliser.

The town’s ladies continued to pressurise Annadale’s defence.  Hard work by Anna Moore, Amy Atkinson, Rachel Cairns and Abi Thompson tested the Annadale keeper time and time again but a way through could not be found.  A 1-1 scoreline took the teams into half time. As the second half got underway the game flowed from end to end with most battles taking place in the centre of the pitch.  Gemma Todd, Sarah Quinn and Debbie Whitten performed brilliantly, winning tackles and driving forward but Annadale defended in numbers and all of Bann’s attacks were broken down quickly. 

Annadale came into the game more as the second half progressed, they broke through with speed and skill but although Banbridge’s defence had their work cut out for them they were up to the challenge with Ash Bell, Amanda Morton, Jill Mehaffey and Diane McMillen tackling well and making important clearances. 

On a couple of occasions Annadale managed to break through but credit to Claire McMullan in the Ban goal as she showed that she too can pull off great saves to keep her side in the game.  Despite Annadale’s attacking opportunities they never managed to win a penalty corner as the Banbridge side pulled together to defend as a team. As full time approached Banbridge worked hard in an attempt to avoid extra time but their efforts were in vain, the final whistle went and extra time with golden goal principles was looming. Going into extra time Banbridge found their second wind.  Annadale attacks were closed down quickly allowing Ban to break through in attack looking for the golden goal that would end the game.  Before the girls knew it the whistle went to single the end of extra time, you could feel the tension and anxious build up as the game was taken to penalty strokes. Banbridge’s hope of a semi-final place rested on the shoulders of Bann’s keeper Claire McMullan and the five chosen penalty stroke takers of Amy Atkinson, Sarah Quinn, Anna Moore, Gemma Todd and Rachel Cairns. 

These Bann ladies showed nerves of steel and despite going a stroke down at the beginning they kept calm.  Claire pulled off two very fine saves and Banbridge scored the remainder of their strokes to edge out 4-3 winners booking their place in the next round of the Cup and edging ever closer to their second piece of silverware this season.  Well done girls.

Player of the Match this week goes to Amanda Morton wo tackled solidly and drove forward assisting Ban’s attacking play. Many thanks this week go to Sheree Totten for umpiring and to everyone who travelled to support the team.