Positive signs despite defeat for South Antrim

Action from the game between South Antrim and Kilkeel, at Friends. US1541-528cd  Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Action from the game between South Antrim and Kilkeel, at Friends. US1541-528cd Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Last weekend saw South Antrim’s first fixture in the Ulster Premier League after winning promotion last year from Senior 1.

The Lisburn side played Kilkeel, an established mid-table side with more experience than themselves.

The men in red and black were undaunted and started well, absorbing the expected pressure with ease and mounting counter attacks by use of the ariel ball.

One of these balls played in Paul Maguire, who darted in behind the defence and won a short corner as the defender was deemed to have deliberately played the ball over the back line.

South scored the resulting set piece with an Adam Glass drag flick.

South Antrim were under pressure but rarely in danger over the next 20 minutes.

Unfortunately Kilkeel won their own short corner after a well played advantage, which they duly converted.

The Mourne men quickly went in front, after an unkind ricochet fell to a Kilkeel forward who volleyed on the turn into the far corner.

South regrouped and the makeshift centre back pairing of Adam Marshall and Mark Gray stood firm, allowing just one more short corner, saved easily by Hutchinson in goals.

John Semple, on his return to the firsts, was at the heart of everything positive in South’s play.

He linked well with other midfielders Jack Redpath and Ward Phillips to take the game to Kilkeel. The break arrived too soon to take advantage of the pressure, with the scores 2-1 to the visitors.

Soon into the second half, a chain of defensive errors lead to another Kilkeel short, duly dispatched again by a drag flick.

Knowing they had to find a goal quickly to get back into the game, South stepped it up pressing high up the pitch.

They soon won a short corner from another Chris Henry mazy run when he was cynically scythed down inside the final quarter, the offending Kilkeel player was awarded a green card for his troubles.

Henry scored his deflection form the set piece to get South back into it. However, their pressing to get the equalizer was their undoing as a break away led to another Kilkeel short, dispatched on the rebound after the initial save by Agnew.

Credit to the boys that they didn’t give up, Henry was again brought down and South were award another short, this time the Kilkeel keeper was equal to the flick and saved.

South switched to a full press and it paid dividends, Getty intercepted an errand pass and played in Henry who used his pace to get by his marker but was yet again fouled before he entered the circle.

Another card for Kilkeel and another short for South. Henry again scored a deflection, now a deserved brace from the player causing mayhem.

With South really on top and Kilkeel on the ropes, the final whistle went, denying the Lisburner’s an upset.

This performance was really encouraging for the young South team, knowing they can match the current experienced Premier League sides will go along way to avoiding relegation and finished in a good position in their debut season.

ext week sees the men travel to Raphoe, the only team to beat them on their Senior 1 winning campaign last year.

Keen to right a wrong, the team will look to play at the same high standard they showed against Kilkeel.