ANTRIM entertained Portadown in their first home match of the season on Saturday hoping to improve on last week’s heavy defeat at Mossley.
Antrim had the slight edge in the first ten minutes with Curtis Murray getting in a couple of shots.
The first was just that spilt second too late and the ball deflected off a defender’s stick for a long corner and from the second, the Portadown goalkeeper made a good save when he dived to his right to push the ball away.
From the next attack Dean Wilson cleverly scooped the ball into the circle over the Portadown defenders but it bounced harmlessly into the net just in front of the onrushing forwards.
Portadown settled and mounted attacks from both wings but they were easily cleared.
Then in the 11th minute Portadown forward Matt Winter broke into the Antrim circle from the left to take the ball past a defender and reverse sweep it into the net to give his team the lead.
From an Antrim attack in the 13th minute a clever overhead pass from Mark Smyth found Dean Wilson but he was very unlucky to see his, on the run, flick just skim the crossbar.
Ricky McClintock skilfully dribbled the ball into the circle but from his narrow angled shot the ball was kicked clear by the Portadown keeper.
Then in the 19th minute from a right wing attack the ball was played into the Antrim circle where Steve Johnston found the time and space to drive the ball into the net through the static defenders to give his team the 2-0 lead.
Soon afterwards from an attack down the left wing Adrian Murtland played a tentative pass across the Portadown circle and with everyone expecting the ball to bounce past the post Andy Linford appeared from nowhere to deflect it into the net to give Antrim their first goal.
With just under 15 minutes to half time and the team playing reasonably well substitutions started to be made.
Presumably these were tactics of the coach to give the young fringe players some pitch time at the sharp end of Premier League competition.
Unfortunately too many on and off changes disturbed the rhythm of the team and upset some of the players who were taken off.
Then goalkeeper Andy Heatley was hurt making a fearless diving tackle to save a certain goal.
Fortunately he recovered and when play resumed Portadown won their first penalty corner of the game in the 26th minute.
This attempt was missed and a few minutes later Smyth won a penalty corner for Antrim but this chance was squandered and the ball was cleared away.
Dean Wilson won another penalty corner in the 31st minute but the ball from his shot flew high over the crossbar.
Portadown were awarded a penalty corner in the 34th minute after a stick clash in the circle.
Goalkeeper Heatley blocked the fierce drive and saved again from the rebound conceding a long corner before the whistle sounded to bring the first half to an end.
The second half started with early Portadown pressure and goalkeeper Heatley had to make a couple of smart saves before an Antrim defender’s clearance was intercepted.
The ball was quickly switched to the left of circle where the unmarked Luke Bell slammed the ball into the net for the 3-1 lead in the 38th minute.
The Antrim midfielders, Adrian Murtland, Linford and Alan Mullan tried hard to get the ball through to forwards Dean Wilson, Murray and Thomas Allen but that final pass went astray time after time.
Antrim’s best player Dean Wilson played a great through pass to Chris Wilson but with a free shot he topped the ball and it was easily saved by goalkeeper Jamie McKnight.
Basic stopping, hitting and passing mistakes from the Antrim team made things much easier for their opponents.
A 51st minute left wing Antrim attack allowed Dean Wilson to work the ball into the circle to shoot goalwards.
The ball rebounded off a defender’s body but as it fell back into Wilson’s path, the umpire played a good advantage allowing him to slam the ball into the net to score and bring Antrim back into the game.
But that hope was short lived when from the next Portadown attack another bad pass was intercepted and they won a penalty corner when the ball hit a defender’s foot in the circle.
The penalty corner was well executed and from a left to right switch Ryan Bennett crashed the ball into the net to score his team’s fourth goal in the 52nd minute.
To add to the confusion Antrim were still rotating their players, like a game of musical chairs and it was no surprise when Bennett scored again from another penalty corner award in the 56th minute for the 5-2 lead.
From another penalty corner in the 62nd minute Dean Wilson fired the ball wide and with the confident Portadown team surging forward the tired Antrim team were struggling to stay in the game but good defending from teenagers Nial Black and Daniel Thornton thwarted their efforts time after time.
A tired, careless tackle won Portadown another penalty corner in the 68th minute and this time Bennett scored his hat trick with a strong drag flick high into the net to clinch this easy 6-2 victory.
Too many substitutes and too many changes didn’t help Antrim’s cause. It would be fairer to give these up and coming players a full game to prove their worth rather than disrupting the team by pulling them on and off every ten minutes.
A more sensible solution would be to stay with the strongest eleven and have a couple of substitutes available in case there are any injuries.
This Saturday the team travels to Belfast to play Queens in their next league match.
Antrim: A Linford, D Gleghorne, N Black, D Thornton, S Gleghorne, A Mullan, A Murtland, A Linford, D Wilson, C Murray, R McClintock, T Allen, C Wilson, R Watt, M Watt and M Smyth.