Ards are in sight of the finishing line after an awesome first half display saw them move to within a point of the Premier league title after a 6-1 win over Lisnagarvey at Comber Road on Saturday.
Now even a draw from Wednesday night’s game with Harlequins at Ards Leisure Centre will be enough for them to complete a league-Ulster Shield double.
Judging by Saturday’s performance it is difficult to see Quins stopping them in their tracks and even if they were to secure an unlikely away win Ards would still have a safety net.
The two teams meet again at Deramore on Saturday and, even before that, champions Pegasus cannot afford to slip up against Queen’s at Upper Malone tonight.
The star of the Co Down on Saturday was undoubtedly Emma Reid, who hit a hat trick but also made a telling contribution all over the pitch.
Murray was blissfully unaware of Reid’s credentials as she once was among the youngest players ever to wear the green shirt of the Ireland senior team. However she once again underlined her reputation as one of the best players NOT in the current squad.
That was partly a matter of choice as she was unable to give the commitment required to either re-locate to or travel to Dublin for centralized training five years ago. But Ireland’s loss has certainly been Ards gain as she has been a consistently solid performer all season having returned to the playing arena after taking a year out.
“I thought Ards were fantastic and they will fully deserve to win the league and Emma was oustanding.” said Murray.
“She produced a real masterclass out there and her movement on and off the ball and her passing was superb.
“If there was any consolation I suppose it came in the fact that we kept them scoreless for the last 25 minutes.
“We had a goal correctly disallowed when it was 2-1 to them but any other result than an Ards win would have been a travesty of justice.”
Ards manager Phil Mills was naturally delighted with his team’s display, particularly in the opening 35 minutes when they led 4-1.
“The plan was to hit them hard from the start and we managed to do that although we became a bit sloppy after they scored.” he said.
“But overall it was a much better display than the one we produced in losing 3-0 to Pegasus seven days earlier.”
Reid got Ards off to a dream start when she broke the deadlock after only four minutes after starting and finishing a move and then netting the rebound after Naomi Elliott’s shot had been taken off the line.
Three minutes later she made it 2-0 with a well struck penalty corner.
Garvey equalised out of the blue on 23 minutes when a penalty corner switch delivered by Jenna McQueen came off a post.
But three minutes later Ards restored their two goal lead when Kerri McDonald banged home a set piece variation.
Malseed and Tamara Macleod then combined for Janice Vaughan to get a deflection which made it 4-1 at half time.
Three minutes after the break Reid completed her hat trick when she netted at the far post after good work by Amy Benson.
In the 45th minute the impressive Malseed raced into the circle and won a penalty stroke which Becky Weir converted.
Elsewhere Zoe Wilson hit a treble as Randalstown beat Harlequins 3-2 while Chloe McCann’s second half equaliser earned Lurgan a 1-1 draw at Ballymoney who led early through Susannah Brown.