Naomi Elliott’s last-gasp equaliser earned Ards a point from a 1-1 draw with leaders Queen’s in Saturday’s top Premier League clash at the Dub.
The result was no more than Ards deserved on the basis of their performance in the second half as the students had to dig deep even after conceding late on.
It took some excellent defending from the home team allied to several good stops from goalkeeper Ashley McIlroy to prevent an away win.
But Queen’s could well have put the game beyond Ards’ reach if they had been able to capitalise on their superiority in the early stages of the second half.
All things considered though a draw was probably a fair reflection of the pattern of the game between two evenly matched sides.
It was a fiercely contested affair but an extremely sporting contest despite the fact several players fell foul of the officials.
At one stage Ards were down to nine players as the game approached the break but the visitors held out as they went into the interval trailing 1-0.
Queen’s forced the first penalty corner of the match after just three minutes and Hannah McMillan’s shot was capably dealt with by Naomi McKnight in the Ards goal.
Ards responded with a chance of their own as McIlroy got down well to save from Chloe Brown who had been set up by Becky Weir.
From the resulting set piece Katy Bennett’s effort was stopped by the home goalkeeper as the game continued to swing from end to end.
But it was at the Ards end that the opening goal eventually arrived in the 13th minute and scrappy though it was, they all count.
Rachel Mulligan, who dovetailed well with McMillan up front, was instrumental in the build up as the Queen’s captain scrambled the ball home at the second attempt.
Eight minutes later Janice Vaughan earned Ards their fourth penalty corner and bennett’s shot was saved well by McIlroy.
Queen’s then lost Julie Allison to a yellow card after an illegal challenge but Ards were unable to make their numerical advantage pay.
In the 32nd minute after Queen’s were back to full strength Brown set off on a great run and Brenna McEwen went close from the assist.
Then Tamara McLeod asked a legitimate question to one of the umpires about a raised ball that was wrongly blown up and paid the penalty with a green card.
Within a minute Claire Coey found herself in the sin-bin but Queen’s failed to add to their tally when it was 11 versus nine although Laura Robinson sent a penalty corner switch just wide on the stroke of half-time.
The glut of goal scoring chances continued after the break with Queen’s coming closest when Claire Allison pushed a set piece variation across the face of goal when she could have scored.
Fifteen minutes into the second half Brown set off on a superb run showing some skills that wouldn’t have been out of place on a camogie pitch but she drilled her shot wide of the far post.
Three minutes later McLeod found Vaughan with a pin-point pass but McIlroy reacted superbly as she dashed off her line to smother the shot.
Play continued to ebb and flow and Queen’s had the next chance on 53 minutes as Mulligan got in a shot but Naomi McKnight saved at the base of the post.
Then with 13 minutes to go Brown set up Coey but her shot was off target and at this stage it looked like Queen’s would hold on for the win.
But Ards showed commendable battling qualities and they were rewarded with the equaliser in the 62nd minute although the initial chance appeared to have been lost at a short corner as Queen’s defended well.
However the loose ball fell for Caroline Adams and her reverse-stick shot was crashed towards the goal for Elliott to sweep it home from seven yards out.
But Ards were far from finished as Bennett and Adams had shots saved before Brown fired over at a penalty corner with virtually the last action of a hugely entertaining contest.