LAST Saturday a pre-season friendly between Antrim and Mossley junior teams was played at the Antrim Forum.
The terms of this match were not the traditional setup for a hockey match as instead of two halves of 35 minutes this match consisted of four quarters of 20 minutes, making this not only a test of the new seasons squads’ depth, but also a test of their endurance.
Joint captains Stuart Campbell and Stuart McIlroy - overseen by Club chairman Dean Kane - controlled team selection and side-line management.
They selected featured a very youthful team placed around the veteran Stuart Kernahan at centre back with career debuts for Henry Roberts, Josh Lavery and Andrew Clarke.
Push back was taken at 2.30 pm sharp under the watchful eye of umpire Gary Molloy and the first ten minutes were expectantly tentative as both teams contested the ball in the centre of the pitch in short sharp exchanges.
But the play slowly changed in tempo as the home side began to take control of the game and press the Mossley, probing for goal scoring opportunities.
This continued until the 15-minute mark, where, against the run of play, a Mossley player broke free down the left wing before running the ball into the circle to slot it past the Antrim goalkeeper Henry Roberts to open the scoring.
At the first break the minor mistakes of the home side were addressed and the necessary changes made.
These changes proved to be effective as the introduction of Robbie Monahan and Josh Lavery would have an immediate impact as the former would have two shots saved and a short corner won within two minutes of entering the game.
This pushed the Mossley team back into their own half under the pressure of a chasing Monahan, Daniel Thornton and Adam Pearce who kept the visitors struggling to get the ball out of their own half for almost the entire quarter.
The Antrim side were still trying to break the deadlock 15 minutes into the second quarter until they decided to utilise a strategy that they had used last year with great success.
The revolving door of centre forwards, with Monahan, Chris Roe and Ryan McCrea all swapping in and out and it was only a matter of time before the equaliser came.
It would be McCrea who found the net in the 38th minute after Thornton made a devastating run from midfield into the circle, slicing the Mossley defence in two like a hot knife through butter with a pass to McCrea leaving him a simple tap in at the left-hand post to leave the scores level at half time.
The third quarter would prove to be the major turning point in this match as it became clear that fatigue was beginning to affect the visitors.
Antrim piled on the pressure and for the next ten minutes the ball did not enter Antrim’s half and on the odd occasion that it did the short corner earned was snuffed out easily by defenders Robbie and Matthew Watt.
With the pressure mounting it became obvious that another Antrim goal was coming and in the 40th minute it did when Pearce interchanged with Roe and played the ball across the face of the goal where McCrea was on hand to ping it into the net to give Antrim the 2-1 lead.
Antrim kept the pressure up and they found the net once again when Roe turned provider again, this time playing the ball to Brian Creighton who made no mistake finding the net with a shot from the middle of the circle in the 55th minute for the 3-1 lead.
The visitors threw everything into the attack in the final period but the young Antrim team were full of running.
Laverty, Pearce, Monahan and Jamie Kernaghan kept the Mossley side penned into their own half so much so that they struggled to run the ball past the Antrim midfielders most of the time - and even when they did enter the Antrim circle the ball was capably dealt with by debutant keeper Roberts and defender David Gleghorne.
This entertaining game ended with no more goals being scored and the home team holding on to claim the narrow 3-1 victory.
More friendlies are being arranged before the league proper starts in a few weeks time.
Training continues at the Forum on Monday and Wednesday evening from 7.30pm until 9pm.
All members old and new are invited to attend so that the teams can be ready for the start of the season.