Lisnagarvey took a massive step towards winning the inaugural Irish Hockey League with a 1-0 victory over closest rivals Monkstown at Rathdown School last Saturday.
The visitors, remembering their 5-2 defeat at home back in October, knew that only a first class performance would be good enough to come away with a result against the team which had won the two tier IHL for the past three seasons.
The game proved to be a high quality affair played at a frantic pace with neither side giving an inch during the engrossing 60 minutes with Monkstown making the first penetration in the fifth minute when they gained the opening penalty corner of the match.
The Jonny Bruton drag flick was brilliantly saved by Garvey keeper John Tormey at full stretch and gradually Garvey got themselves into the game.
The contest, as expected, was fought out in midfield with very few scoring chances being created during the first quarter following the Monkstown penalty corner.
Daniel Buser had a half chance in the 12th minute and Sean Murray produced a great right wing cross to no avail as the first 15 minutes ended scoreless.
Paul Ritchie made good ground down the right flank ending with a fine cross in the 17th minute but there was no Garvey player on hand to threaten the Monkstown goalkeeper David Fitzgerald while at the other end, Monkstown got to the goal line but they too could not create a scoring opportunity.
Peter Caruth showed a great piece of skill in the 23rd minute to pierce the defence but Garvey keeper John Tormey was equal to the resulting shot and still the stalemate continued until Neil Glassey forced Garvey’s first penalty corner in the 27th minute.
However, the effort was wasted as the ball was not stopped at the edge of the circle and a minute later Matthew Nelson shot high over the bar on his reverse side.
John Tormey was again in action in the 29th minute with a timely interception while a half chance for Daniel Nelson was cleared and at the half time hooter, the game was still locked at 0-0.
Monkstown keeper, Fitzgerald made a timely clearance in the 43rd minute but three minutes later, the vital opening goal was scored by the visitors.
Timmy Cockram made the running in midfield before linking up with Mikey Watt who steadied himself before beating Fitzgerald with a shot just inside the far left hand post.
Monkstown, not used to trailing, immediately surged back with a great run by Bruton who beat the Garvey defence on the right but his cross was just out of reach of a team-mate while Steven Arbuthnot had to be at his best to intercept a dangerous move in the 52nd minute as Garvey came under expected pressure.
The home side forced their second set piece in the 54th minute but Lee Cole’s shot was defended at the cost of a third penalty corner. The resulting drag flick went wide and Garvey breathed again as the third quarter was completed.
The final 15 minutes proved to be even more frantic as Monkstown knew they had to grab an equaliser or fall further adrift.
Defenders Jonny Bell, Richard Arneill, Paul Gleghorne and James Lorimer were under some pressure but came through the examination with flying colours.
Geoff Cole was given a yellow card in the 55th minute which gave Garvey a little leeway and helped them keep their goal intact to see out a massive victory.