Cookstown thwart Bann in IHL opener whilst Seconds march on
Bann’s IHL Defence Starts With Defeat
Banbridge travelled up to Cookstown to begin the defence of their IHL crown. The teams large squad had to be utilised, with Dermy Reay and Ross Beattie injured, and Drew Carlisle unavailable.
The first quarter started rather slowly with both sides striving to keep it tight and find their feet. However, it was Cookstown who struck first through an Ian Sloan drag flick, which Banbridge goalkeeper Lennox should have dealt better with. Going a goal down sparked Banbridge into life, with the equaliser coming a few minutes later. The teams’ first short corner was intelligently switched to Ward at the back post, who expertly deflected the ball past the despairing Hughes.
The second quarter started with Banbridge gaining the upper hand in the midfield battle. Bruce McCandless was dominating his exchanges with fellow Irish international Ian Sloan and beginning to dictate the pace of the game. The pressure told on the Cookstown defence as a poor pass was picked up by livewire Owen Magee. His surge into the circle was then illegally stopped, with the result being a penalty stroke. Bruce strode up and confidently slid the ball into the back of the net to put Bann 2-1 up. It was then through some sloppy defending that Cookstown got back into the game. The Bann midfield switched off from a quick free, with the ball kindly breaking to Cookstown forward Crooks. He had time in the circle, and his miss-hit shot squeezed into the bottom corner.
Banbridge started the third quarter poorly and were constantly under pressure, with goalkeeper Lennox making a few crucial saves to keep his team in the game. However Cookstown finally edged in front from another Sloan drag flick.
The fourth quarter began with Cookstown going 4-2 up, with Ian Sloan completing his hat-trick. It wasn’t until this point that Banbridge upped their game and began to push Cookstown back into their own territory. Controversy then struck when Owen Magee was split open from a horrific challenge on the 25 yard line from Barbour. Shockingly no cards were produced and Magee had to receive Medical attention for the rest of the game. Unfortunately Banbridge couldn’t find their cutting edge in front of goal and had to play the last couple of minutes with ten men, due to Scott McCandless being sin-binned.
Not the ideal start to the defence of their IHL title, but there were more positives to take out of the game compared to their performance the previous weekend.
North Down 2nds 0-3 Banbridge 2nds
This week Beacon’s squad made the trip to Comber Leisure Centre to face North Down Seconds. Bann’s opponents find themselves at the bottom of Junior One following defeats against Instonians and Lisnagarvey in the opening weeks of the season. Bann went into the game hoping to continue their 100% start and to build on an effective performance last week against Mossley. With McShane, Caruth and Cosgrove all stepping up to the Firsts this week and Doyle ruled out through injury, Bann were glad to have McAnulty returning as well as Bennington and Dickson making the step up from the Thirds.
Bann started the game with plenty of possession, with Bennington and Dickson in particular impressing in numerous forays down the right. However, the Seconds were unable to turn their early ascendancy into goals, through a combination of some solid saves from the North Down ‘keeper and some wasteful passing in the final third. In their frustration, Bann began to overcommit numbers forward which enabled the North Down front line to have a several counter-attacking opportunities which Appleton, Burns and Anderson did well to keep the clean sheet intact.
Bann began to reassert themselves in midfield, with Jess and McCague enforcing a number of turnovers in midfield, leading to a succession of short corners being awarded to the men in red. From the second of these, Douglas Anderson rolled back the years to send an unstoppable flick into the top right hand corner of the North Down goal to leave the score 1-0 to Bann at halftime.
The game opened up a lot more in the second half, with better tactical discipline and movement in the Bann midfield enabling McAnulty and Woods to pick up more threatening positions deep in North Down territory. Following great interplay between Jess and McCracken down the right, with the North Down ‘keeper committed, the ball fell to the stick of Woods who casually took his time in flicking a well-placed finished into the right hand corner past a recovering defender to leave Bann 2-0 ahead.
The Bann defence formed an effective barrier in the second half, keeping Appleton’s activities to a minimum. Following a great interception by Burns, McAnulty was released down the left wing. The veteran beat his man with consummate ease before firing a high reverse stick shot which the ‘keeper could only shovel high in the air towards the goalmouth, where McCague was waiting for the easiest of finishes at the back post. This goal killed the game as a contest, and the game was played out without further incident (aside from a barrage of North Down abuse aimed at Phillip ‘Stevie-Wonder’ Doyle on the Bann whistle).
Final Score: Bann 3 – North Down 0
Overall, a good three points for a reshuffled Bann squad who make it 3 wins from 3 this season, with a break next weekend due to the First’s participation in the EHL in Belgium. All the best to the lads from Beacon’s army!!!