A dramatic late goal scored by Chris Henry clinched South Antrim a 1-0 win over Newry Olympic in an entertaining Kirk Cup game at Friends School Lisburn on Saturday.
Last season’s Senior One champions were awarded a penalty corner and before it could be taken, the final whistle was blown.
But, as the rules permit, the corner was allowed to be executed, as South sent all 11 players up to the circle knowing that it was to be the last action of the game.
Well almost - one of the Newry players broke the line and therefore wasn’t allowed to stay in situ as the umpire rightly ordered a re-take.
So, with just four players defending the goal, South had a golden opportunity to score and they did just that as Henry connected with the initial strike to send the ball into the net.
On the balance of play the Lisburn team just about deserved their narrow win as they had won the corner count 10-2 and had more possession than their opponents.
Newry goalkeeper Frances McGivern was much busier than his opposite number Mark Hutchinson and he was forced into several decent saves throughout an entertaining 70 minutes.
South coach Ross Johnston was naturally delighted at the outcome as his team won their first match against a Premier League side since their promotion.
The hosts had gone down 4-1 to Portadown in their opening Kirk Cup game so Saturday’s win provided the perfect antidote for the pain of that defeat.
“We left it late but I thought we just shaded it and we stuck to our game plan and were disciplined so it was a good result for the boys who worked very hard.” said Johnston.
“We learned some lessons from losing to Portadown who had also beaten us in the Linden Cup at the same time last season.
“It was a good test for us playing one of last season’s Premier League teams and we’re delighted to have got the win.
“It will be important to beat the teams around us in the Premier League campaign and the priority will be to try and continue to improve.
“It’s a four year plan which doesn’t necessarily include playing in the Irish Hockey League for the time being.”
South had the first chance after eight minutes when a skilful piece of play from Adam Marshall released James Brown whose classic wing play set up Adam Glass at the far post but he shot just wide.
Four minutes later Newry’s Neil Liggett was shown a yellow card for a foul on Paul Maguire and then Newry were awarded the first set-piece of the game but it came to nothing.
Glass had a couple of opportunities as South forced several penalty corners but their routine wasn’t functioning particularly well, with McGivern equal to the task when needed.
In the 26th minute, a good run by Neil McKnight down the right looked threatening but Hutchinson came to the rescue then McGivern saved from Ward Phillips as play swung from end to end.
In the 45th minute McGivern produced the save of the match when he stopped Matthew Getty’s stinging reverse-stick effort.
With four minutes left, South were awarded a penalty stroke for ‘feet’ on the line but after consulting his colleague the umpire reversed his call deeming that the ball was going wide and the resulting corner came to nothing.
South will have been disappointed with their set-piece routines but they finally came good when Henry converted number 10 for that late, late winner.