Saturday saw South Antrim 1st XI travel to Edenvilla to take on a Portadown side that were promoted to the Premier League alongside them last season.
Although finishing behind the Lisburn side in last season’s Senior 1 division, it is Portadown who have made the stronger start to their debut season in the premier league, lying mid-table.
South Antrim on the other hand have struggled to replicate their title winning form from last season and, despite suffering some heavy defeats in recent weeks, saw this as an opportunity to return to form.
The opening stages of the match were perhaps reflective of many previous encounters between the two sides, with each teams’ attacking nature resulting in a very open game of hockey.
However, South found themselves 2-0 down mid-way through the half with two quick-fire goals from Portadown. Despite the disappointing nature of the goals conceded, South Antrim, having already overturned a two goal deficit in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, a match which finished 2-2, remained confident of a result.
The Lisburn side began to grown more into the match and, after a series of near chances, were finally rewarded. Good work from Darren Hutchinson and James Brown resulted in a short corner being awarded to South, which was duly converted by Adam Glass, with a powerful hit into the bottom corner of the goal.
The start of the second half saw Portadown bounce back strongly, applying more and more pressure to the South Antrim defence.
With the game becoming even more stretched, the Lisburn side deservedly found themselves back on level terms at the mid-way stage of the half. A well worked short corner routine resulted in a diving back post deflection from Lee Marshall, a rare goal for the South Antrim captain.
With minutes left in the game South Antrim hearts were broken as a quick counter attack resulted in a Portadown forward deflecting home what proved to be a vital goal in this tie.
With the score at 3-2, South Antrim threw everything they had at Portadown, and were unfortunate not to equalise once more with a Chris Henry deflection narrowly missing the bottom corner.
With seconds left in the match Portadown were awarded a penalty stroke, following a foul from ‘keeper Mark Hutchinson, and made no mistake in converting, further increasing their lead. The final whistle followed shortly afterwards, with the match finishing ta 4-2.
South Antrim may feel that they were perhaps deserving of at least a point from this game, however they can take pride from their improved performance and continue to strive towards reproducing last season’s title winning form in the remaining fixtures this season.