After a brief absence, South Antrim were back in Irish Hockey’s most prestigious competition and this time around they had one of the toughest draws of the round.
They faced a very talented Pembroke Wanderers side.
This tie maybe came at a good time for Pembroke as it gave them a break from their disappointing start to the new Irish Hockey League.
The first 10 minutes of the game was quite a cagey affair with South Antrim creating the better of the chances. This showed when Ward Phillips beat his man and crossed the ball across the face of the goal only for Chris Henry to narrowly miss the ball after a diving attempt.
As the game grew Pembroke began to take control gaining more of the possession but they still couldn’t find a way through the resolute centre-back partnership of Adam Marshall and Mark Gray with Marshall making some particularly impressive goal saving tackles. This theme would continue throughout the match.
Pembroke finally made the crucial breakthrough midway through the 1st half when a slick move got them to the base line and a pass to the flick spot allowed for an easy tap in.
The away side continued to defend strongly against a team that contained a number of Irish International players and conceded four more quick goals towards the end of the 1st half, with the home netting three short corners from three attempts.
This made the score 5-0 at half time but didn’t stop the young South Antrim team desire to get back into the match.
The second half was a much tighter affair after South Antrim found their footing. Continuing their high pressing game, they put the Pembroke defence under pressure and forced a number of short corners which narrowly missed their target.
Maybe one of the toughest jobs of the day for South Antrim was in midfield, facing up against some of Pembroke’s most talented players.
This was done superbly by the tireless work of Lee Marshall and John Semple who managed to win some battles of his own.
This work ethic spread throughout the team and made Pembroke frustrated but South Antrim began to tire with the continued onslaught and this showed when Pembroke scored another 3 goals in quick succession.
Towards the end of the game South Antrim began to take the game to Pembroke with Chris Henry having notable success down the right hand side.
This pressure finally got it’s reward when Chris Henry used his pace to get to the baseline and win a short corner. After discussing tactics at the top of the circle, South Antrim executed a short corner perfectly when Adam Glass switched the ball back to Lee Marshall to duly convert into the bottom corner.
South nearly added a second as another reverse stick cross from Phillips was inches in front of both Henry and Gamble as it continued on and hit the post.
Pembroke would score one more goal to make the final score 9-1 to the home side.
The difference certainly showed in the quality of finishing from Pembroke.
South Antrim can take a lot of heart from this match as it will certainly be the toughest match they will play all year. It is also this level of competition that they need to be aiming for if they wish to improve in the coming years.