Pegasus hold up Ards’ charge to league success

Ards Emma Reid and Pegasus's Alex Speers
Ards Emma Reid and Pegasus's Alex Speers

The champagne must stay on ice for a while longer after Ards missed out on a chance to lift Premier League title after going down 3-0 to Pegasus at Upper Malone on Saturday.

The result means that the Co Down side now need a maximum of four points from their remaining three matches to lift the trophy.

They can move to within a point of their target next Saturday as they will be expected to beat struggling Lisnagarvey.

After that game they are due to face Belfast Harlequins the following midweek and, again, on Saturday March 21.

Garvey and Quins are languishing in the lower reaches of the table and fighting for their lives to avoid a relegation play off.

That scenario could yet transpire as there has been no confirmation from Ulster Hockey that relegation will be put on hold to allow teams to compete in the Irish Hockey League next season.

So both of Ards’ opponents in the coming fortnight or so will certainly be in no mood to lie down.

Having said that it would be a major surprise if the Co Down side fail to lift the silverware, dethrone Pegasus and prevent them from winning the trophy for the 18th time in the past 19 years.

However, looking at Saturday’s respective displays, onlookers could have been excused for thinking it was the champions and not Ards who were on the brink of claiming the title.

Ards could have ended the long wait to get their hands on the silverware with a win as The Ulster Elks needed to beat Lurgan to keep their slim hopes alive but fell to a 1-0 defeat.

Pegasus were by far the better team on the day and thoroughly deserved their victory.

“Pegasus played very well but we were very disappointed with our performance.” confessed Ards manager Phil Mills.

“We lacked our usual intensity and our ball speed was poorer than it has been in recent weeks.”

On this form Pegasus can look forward to the IHL finals weekend with a degree of confidence.

“I thought we played very well and, apart from a brief purple patch Ards had in the second half,” said Pegasus coach Arlene Boyles.

Right from the start, the champions imposed their authority on their opponents who looked strangely off colour.

Former Ireland striker Suzanne Ferris, formerly Beaney, was in imperious form as she turned back the years with a superb display.

Not only did she score two of the goals but she set up the other strike for forward partner Vanessa Surgeoner.

Ferris gave Pegasus a dream start when she scored after only three minutes from close range.

Ards only really threatened from set pieces and, from one in the 19th minute, Sharon Moffett saved well from Emma Reid.

But it was Pegasus who went 2-0 up when Ferris threaded through an inch perfect pass to Vanessa Surgeoner who swept the ball home in the 29th minute.

A home defender was lucky not to have received a yellow card for a blatant body check on Brown near the break but the resultant penalty corner came to nothing.

Three minutes after the restart Robyn Chambers raced into the circle and fired in a rising shot which Naomi McKnight saved.

Chambers then turned provider in the 45th minute when her excellent cross was met by Ferris at the far post and she finished clinically with a first time shot.

Stephanie Thompson then had a set piece saved by McKnight in the 53rd minute as Pegasus continued to dominate.

Ards forced three penalty corners in quick succession in the last few minutes but Moffett, making her comeback between the posts, was equal to the task and Pegasus emerged deserving winners.