North meets South in table topping clash

SATURDAY past saw an in-form South side travel to play North Down with both sides level at the top of the league table.

The previous fixture between the two, on the opening day of the season, witnessed South come from 3-0 down to grab a 3-3 draw and another tight affair was anticipated.

The side from Comber dominated the early exchanges in terms of possession but it was the visitors, who looked more likely to score. After a John Semple attempt on goal was well saved by the host’s ‘keeper, the usually potent Paul Maguire could only watch in despair as his rebounded attempt was cleared off the line.

An Adam Glass drag flick was dealt with very effectively by the North Down ‘keeper before the home side mounted their first attack of the game.

A driven cross from the left hand side was deflected just past the near post much to the relief of South’s ‘keeper, Chris Moulden.

Just two minutes later, however, the deadlock was broken. South were cheaply dispossessed in the middle of the park and North Down capitalised on this, quickly breaking and slotting the ball past Moulden.

Not to be down heartened, the youthful South side were spurred on by this. A surging run and clever pass from Adam Glass culminated in a shot for Adam Marshall which flew just inches past the top corner. Ricky O’Neill and Jonny Patterson then combined superbly down the left hand side before feeding John Semple whose driven effort flashed agonisingly wide of the post.

The second half started much the way the first had ended, with South looking very dangerous on the break. An intricate 1-2 between Mark Gray and Semple, resulted in the former penetrating the North Down defence before unleashing a sumptuous reverse stick cross.

Unfortunately no one could latch on the end of this to the despair of the travelling spectators, who became resigned to the fact that it wasn’t going to be the Lisburn men’s day.

After this, however, the dynamics of the game changed and North Down became the dominant force. A series of short corners for the hosts enabled a bit of pressure to be piled on, but these were competently dealt with by the ever improving Moulden, who pulled off fine save after fine save.

With 15 minutes left on the clock, Adam Glass was yellow carded and hence North Down had a man advantage which, to their credit, they capitalised upon. After saving well from a short corner Moulden was unlucky to concede a penalty stroke which was duly converted to edge North further in front.

The hosts’ win was then sealed three minutes later, with a drag flick ferociously put away into the bottom corner.

All in all, South will rue their copious missed chances but the level of performance will give them much encouragement going into the final five games of the season, with promotion places still very much within their grasp.