Are Antrim Firsts now facing the high jump?

ANTRIM Firsts had relegation threatened rivals Belfast Harlequins as visitors to the Paddy Marks Arena on Saturday for their important Premier League game.

Antrim were missing key players’ goalkeeper Andy Heatley and Dean Wilson through injury and the unavailable Nial Black and Daniel Thornton.

Play was fairly even for the first 15 minutes with Alan Mullan, Johnny McMeekin and David Gleghorne comfortably defending anything that the visiting forwards could throw at them.

In the sixth minute a Harlequins forward broke into the circle from the right but the ball was kicked away by the versatile stand in goalkeeper Stuart McIlroy.

The Antrim midfielders were guilty of holding on to the ball far too long and time after time they lost their advantage and they were easily dispossessed.

The Antrim forwards tried hard but they always seemed to be in the wrong position to receive or pass the ball to take any advantage time after time.

From a 16th minute Harlequins attack McIlroy got his toe to the ball from a strong reverse stick shot to deflect it past for a long corner.

McIlroy made another good kicked clearance but in their next attack Harlequins were awarded their first penalty corner after the ball hit David Gleghorne’s foot.

From a well executed routine Ally Kenny fired the ball against the backboards to give Harlequins the 1-0 lead.

The Antrim midfielders struggled hard to get to get some decent passes through to their forwards without much success.

In the 34th minute goalkeeper McIlroy blocked and cleared the ball from a strong mid circle shot and half time arrived without the Harlequins goalkeeper having to make a single save.

As the second half progressed Antrim continued to struggle to get the ball through the Harlequins defence - the only exception being Ryan McCrea who was the only forward able to get a few passes across the circle to cause even a glimmer of danger.

Slowly the visitor’s confidence blossomed and it was no surprise when Michael Patterson scored their second goal from a strong edge of circle shot in the 45th minute.

Harlequin’s pressure won them another penalty corner in the 50th minute and Patterson scored again after a well practiced switch for the 3-0 lead.

The Harlequins goalkeeper finally blocked a strong penalty corner shot from McMeekin in the 56th minute before Chris Lemon scored their fourth goal from a penalty stroke in the 60th minute after the ball had been stopped on the line by a defender’s foot.

With goals from Robert Quigley and Matt Grey the rampant Harlequins team scored twice more to seal this important 6-0 victory.

The result has left this struggling, outclassed Antrim team a mountain to climb if they are to recover enough to avoid the drop into Intermediate hockey next season.

Antrim Squad: S McIlroy, A Mullan, J McMeekin, D Gleghorne, A Linford, A Murtland, R McClintock, T Allen, R ,McCrea, A McBride, C Murray, R Watt and M Watt.

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