On Saturday Ballymoney 2nd XI travelled to Belfast to play against Queens. With Queens having won the league last season Ballymoney knew they were in for a stern challenge, but were optimistic they could take points from this fixture if they performed at their best. This positive attitude saw them begin the game confidently and they immediately put the Queens defence under pressure. With Laura Watters dominant in midfield Ballymoney took control of the game and were rewarded with their first penalty corner of the match. This allowed Ruth Sutherland to step forward and a slick corner routine gave her a shooting opportunity from which she made no mistake as she hammered the ball past the goalkeeper.
Laura was ably supported in midfield by Karen Taggart, Nikki Taggart and Julie McCartney, who was making a welcome return to Ballymoney Hockey. These talented players set a fabulous example to their younger team-mates with total commitment in every tackle and maximum effort given on the pitch.
Ballymoney sought to further their lead with the front line of Sarah Holden, Shirley Harvey and Heidi Johnston working hard to create opportunities, but the Queens defence were resilient and prevented any further scoring. Heidi went closest with a lovely deflected shot which the Queens goalkeeper did well to touch around the post.
The second half saw Queens get more into the game forcing the Ballymoney defence to work hard to maintain their lead. Lesley Davies gave her customary superb performance allowing no easy attack for Queens down the right hand side of the pitch whilst Ciara McGuigan defended with strength committing to tackles that many others would have pulled back from. However despite their efforts Queens managed to find an equaliser when a counterattack saw them commit players forward resulting in the Ballymoney defence being outnumbered. Clever interlinking play opened some space in the circle for a Queens forward and she made no mistake as she shot high into the Ballymoney net.
Ballymoney responded immediately and almost took the lead once more when Olivia Linton was unfortunate to see her shot travel just outside the post, before Lauren Mitchell showed good individual talent to win another penalty corner.
The match was nearing the final whistle and it seemed both teams would split the points, which would have been a fair reflection of the game, but Queens had a last roll of the dice with a penalty corner won in the dying minutes. To the heartbreak of the Ballymoney players who had given their all in this tough encounter and deserved a share of the spoils Queens capitalised on their opportunity with a switch play that allowed a shot to find its way inside the Ballymoney left post. Despite the Ballymoney players' disappointment with the scoreline they could take heart from the excellent performances both from individual players and as a team and they know they will be able to build on this in the matches over the coming weeks. Thanks to Andy Linton for umpiring and to captain Sara Gardner who always holds our passport to inspiration!