Senior League 3: Saintfield 1XI 0-0 Donaghadee LHC 1XI
It was second versus bottom last weekend when Donaghadee Ladies 1XI made the short trip to Comber to take on Saintfield at Nendrum College, with Donaghadee having found life in the higher league somewhat of a step up from Senior 4 this year. Indeed Saintfield caught the Dee badly on the hop at the start of the season with 7 unanswered goals not helping the goals against tally for the girls in red and green. There have been signs latterly though that Donaghadee have been starting to dig in and grit their collective teeth and this was never more so in evidence as on Saturday, with a valuable point earned in the quest for league safety come the end of the season.
The pitch survived the Saturday morning downpours and, in what turned into perfect hockey conditions, Saintfield won pass back. They put Donaghadee under an enormous amount of early pressure but Kat McFarland and Paige Reilly – as for the whole game – were immense in the centre of defence, adopting a they-shall-not-pass attitude which was mirrored by wide defenders Amy Long and Lisa Higgins and typified the Donaghadee performance as a whole. On the odd occasion a Saintfield forward did manage to work the ball free in the circle, they found keeper Nicola Patton also on top of her game; a diving stick save at full stretch down to her right to deflect to safety a shot which looked to be heading straight for the bottom corner a particular highlight.
Donaghadee’s midfield fought valiantly too; Captain Ali Lawther provided the platform for her hard-working young central midfield partner Helen Hooks to burst forward when possible. Out wide, Ruth Kennedy and Kerry Kennedy provided the flair with some lovely stick skills on show and telling passes down the flanks. It was one such pass which Maura Hennessey latched on to, and the forward was unlucky to see her shot flash just across the face of the goal.
Where Saintfield had enjoyed good possession in the first half, so it was the Dee’s turn after half time; they utterly dominated the first 20 minutes after the turnaround and really should have gone 1-0 up but for Carolyn Scott’s top-of-the-circle strike just edging the wrong side of the far post. Sarah Harkness and Tasha Paxton were both giving the Saintfield defence food for thought as Donagadee tried to keep the pressure on and the remaining exchanges were end-to-end – but ultimately fruitless – in a thrilling last period for the watching supporters.
Final score 0-0 which not only gives Donaghadee their first point of the season but lifts them off the bottom of the table – a superb start to 2016 and a result they will hope to build on at home to Kilkeel on Saturday, pass back 2.30pm. Many thanks to Willie McAdam for umpiring.
DLHC 2XI were due to play Saintfield 3XI away but the home side’s gravel pitch was a victim of the morning’s heavy rain, leaving the fixture to be fulfilled at a later date. The 2XI will therefore belatedly kick off 2016 with a trip to Owls on Friday night.