Last Saturday Donaghadee Ladies Hockey Club were at home to Newcastle Nomads as the 12/13 league programme draws to its conclusion. The afternoon started off on a delightful note when, despite the relentless rain, members of the club were able to present Nigel Kearney of the Children’s MRI Scanner Appeal with a cheque for £540.40, raised when they took part in the 5k Santa Fun Run which took place in Donaghadee before Christmas.
With the presentation out of the way and no sign of the steady drizzle stopping, the match got underway. Newcastle have maintained a top three position – never conceding more than one goal per game – in the league all season, so this would be a stern test of just how far Donaghadee have progressed this year. Prior to this match the Dee have run top two sides Mossley and Holywood very close, narrowly losing 2-1 each time when they really should have got something from the games and they were coming in to this match after a heartening 6-1 win against Instonians last week, so the confidence and belief has been growing within the team.
Donaghadee’s Suzie Ferguson, deputising for unavailable Captain Ali Lawther, won the toss for pass back but within minutes, Newcastle had carved their way through the Dee to fashion a shot on goal. In what was to set the tone for the day, Dee keeper Siobhan McAdam was on the front foot to meet the shot aggressively, clearing with length to set up Donaghadee going forward. With Kerry Kennedy – starting only her third game for the club but already showing what a classy player she is – pulling the strings in the middle to ensure Donaghadee used the width on both sides to great effect, Donaghadee quickly began to exert pressure on the visiting team. Lisa Higgins, Katie Donnelly and Ruth Kennedy combined beautifully down the left and they were quick to work their way into the attacking 25. The cross duly arrived and was met by an unmarked Carolyn Scott at the top of the circle. The right winger will definitely hit better shots than this but thanks to a deflection from a defending stick leaving the Newcastle keeper totally wrong-footed, the ball ended up in the back of the net and the Dee were off and running. The ferocious pace from the home side continued and within minutes current top goalscorer Kerrie Turtle was next to make her mark on the visitors’ goal; 2-0 to Donaghadee with barely 15 minutes gone.
With Hannah McAdam and Suzie commanding play at the back ably aided by Emma Gray and Christine Hooks, Newcastle weren’t finding much joy in their forays into the Donaghadee circle and the clearances were being really well picked up by the willing Dee runners all over the pitch. Donaghadee added a third shortly before half time when again, tireless running from Katie and jinky stick skills from Ruth down the left provided yet another cross. A little bobbly ball – the sort defenders have nightmares about but which wingers will claim they absolutely meant – evaded several defending sticks and arrived, smooth as you like, on to Carolyn’s stick at the back post. The forward was more than happy to oblige and with a simple tap in for her second, made it 3-0 to the Dee going in to half time.
Experience has told that games against Newcastle are never easy, especially so when they’re 3-0 down and rattled so Donaghadee knew that they’d need to keep their shape, their discipline and their concentration in the second half if the result was going to be secured. The half time chat is all well and good but in true Dee fashion, they went out and ignored every word of it, with Nomads scoring with virtually the first move of the second half. This concentrated the Donaghadee minds somewhat and they got back down to it. The Dee forwards – who had been pressing high up the pitch all match – forced a Newcastle error just outside the circle on the left with a loose ball heading back across goal. Carolyn, in search of her first ever hockey hat trick, had cut in from the right wing and was lurking at the top of the circle. Being half a step ahead of her marker was enough to allow her to intercept the ball and she managed to get enough on the shot for it to bypass the onrushing Nomads keeper and in to the bottom corner of the goal. 4-1 to Donaghadee.
Newcastle were not settling for defeat however and they won themselves a couple of penalty corners after a lack of communication in the Dee defence led to infringements in the home circle. As first runner, Lisa was out like a flash, making two superb blocks to prevent Newcastle getting any shots away. Donaghadee continued to play with the accuracy and belief which was a highlight of this game. In what capped a good personal performance for Carolyn and an exceptional performance from the team, the cherry was placed firmly on the icing on the cake with Donaghadee’s fifth goal, arguably the best of the afternoon. With Leona Wells on for Kerry K, fresh impetus was added to Donaghadee’s midfield and she and Kerry Savage in the right midfield position stormed their way up the pitch. The ball was worked up to Carolyn on right of the Newcastle circle and, from an improbable angle, she managed to squeeze the shot between keeper and post high into the net, taking her tally for the afternoon to 4 and 5 for Donaghadee. Newcastle grabbed a late consolation goal late on to make the final score 5-2 but Donaghadee were delighted with the win and also the performance of every player involved. Donaghadee now have two games remaining; next week at home to Cooke, directly below them in the table, and Ballynahinch, directly above them, away on 2nd March, and if the performance and results of those two games can match last weekend’s, the Dee will be in with a very good shout of finishing fourth in the league. Many thanks to Will McAdam for Stats and to Mike Smyth for umpiring. All the info at http://www.donaghadeelhc.co.uk or on Facebook.com/DonaghadeeLHC.