Donaghadee Ladies Hockey Club banished any lingering festive cobwebs when they travelled to a Donard Park swept by a bracing wind last Saturday to play 3rd in the league Newcastle Nomads. Having been only narrowly beaten by top placed Bangor just before Christmas, confidence in the ranks has been growing and the game plan from the first whistle here was to try and keep things tight and prevent the opposition scoring an early goal, something which Donaghadee has been unable to do in a number of matches this season. Despite a couple of early scares when the Newcastle left wing really should have punished Donaghadee, and thanks to saves from keeper Teegan Greer and timely interventions from fullbacks Nina Wells and Lisa Higgins, the Dee kept things on an even keel and even managed to create the odd chance of their own, although they didn’t manage to break the deadlock. For the first time this season, Donaghadee went in to half time with the scoreline at 0-0 with the mood amongst the players determined not to leave without some sort of points in the bag.
Things got even better early in the second half when Donaghadee pressed down the right with Ali Lawther and Johneen Palmer exchanging passes and getting the cross in, the ball eluding several Newcastle sticks before finding Captain Carolyn Scott unmarked in the middle of the circle. She made no mistake, duly dispatching the ball to make the scoreline 1-0 – possibly also another first this season, Donaghadee going ahead in the match. Newcastle began to pressure the Dee defence but Nina and Lisa, along with Suzie Ferguson and Natasha Cameron stifling much of the home side’s wide play, were keeping them at bay. The concerted Newcastle pressure eventually paid off however, with the home side scoring mid way through the second period. Unaccustomed to the position of finding themselves in with a real chance of points, Donaghadee perhaps sat back a little too much and tried to protect what they had, instead of pushing up and pressuring the Newcastle midfield but, despite this, full marks must go to Katie Donnelly and a bloodied Ali who played just in front of the Dee defence and tried to feed the ball up to the Dee forwards. Indeed, in the last ten minutes or so of the game, it could have gone either way, with the ever-battling Kerrie Turtle in the centre forward role and the silky skills of Ruth Kennedy who came on in the second half to replace the hard working Carmen van der Schyff at left wing causing Newcastle problems at the back. With the clock ticking towards zero, Donaghadee were within sight of a valuable point when the home umpire awarded his side a penalty corner and then blew for full time, allowing the whole Newcastle team to pile forward round the Dee circle against the five Dee defenders. Despite a valiant effort from the Dee defence, they were unable to clear the ball beyond the 25 and Newcastle managed to scramble the ball inside Teegan’s right hand post. Final score 2-1 to Newcastle and utter heartbreak for the Dee who had worked so, so hard for the duration to take something away from the game.
Captain Carolyn Scott wasn’t too downbeat after the game: “I asked the girls to go out and get the points today and, while we’re all a bit gutted not to have held on even for the draw, I can only praise what was a really good team effort. We’ve now pushed two of the top three in the league really close and hopefully all the girls will take some confidence that things are moving in the right direction at the club.”
Many thanks again go to Mike Smyth for umpiring. The Dee are next in action on Saturday at home to College Hill, pass back 2pm. All the stats and all the info can be found at http://www.donaghadeelhc.co.uk or facebook.com/donaghadeelhc