Lisnagarvey maintained their eleven point lead over Monkstown in the EYHL with a 3-2 win over Pembroke Wanderers at Comber Road last Saturday.
Two goals in two minutes from the lethal Mikie Watt almost sealed the victory but Pembroke struck back with two late goals in the last quarter to give the home side something of a fright.
Still without the influential Neal Glassey in midfield but welcoming back Mikie Watt, Garvey were on top in the early stages with two telling attacks and a reverse shot from Andy Forrest which Pembroke goalkeeper Mark Ingram did well to save.
Further pressure from Garvey yielded little and a rather quiet first quarter came to an end with the score 0-0.
The visitors got into the game early in the second quarter with a fine Ronan Flannery cross going untouched in the Garvey goalmouth while David Wilson shot past the post in the 19th minute.
Timmy Cockram drew a good save out of Ingram in the 23rd minute and a minute later Forrest saw his neat deflection go inches past the upright with Ingram rooted to the spot.
The vital period of the match came in the 28th and 29th minutes when Mikie Watt struck twice for Garvey.
The first came after Paul Gleghorne had forced Garvey’s first penalty corner the resulting Timmy Cockram drag flick was parried but Watt was on hand to nick the ball over the line through a crowd of defenders.
Just a minute later Cockram carried the ball along the bye-line before passing to Watt who slid his shot under Ingram and suddenly Garvey were well in control of the tie.
The second quarter ended with no addition to the score and the home side leading by two goals to nil and in comfortable mode.
Early in the third quarter good work by ex Garvey player Jason Lynch set up Flannery in the 32nd minute but he could not convert the chance and the same applied to Pembroke’s first penalty corner in the 37th minute when Harry Spain could not beat Garvey keeper John Tormey with his first shot and then the rebound.
The third and decisive goal for Garvey came in the 43rd minute when a long ball found Mikie Watt who outpaced the Pembroke defence before shooting across the goal only to see Andy Williamson make certain with a tap-in on the goal line.
The third quarter concluded with a second penalty corner for Garvey but no shot of any consequence came from the routine and after 45 minutes Garvey were cruising at 3 goals to nil and seemingly on their way to yet another victory.
However, Pembroke had other thoughts as the last quarter started and within a minute had scored a defiant goal of their own.
Their second set piece corner was saved by Tormey but Harry Spain was in the right place to touch the ball into the Garvey net.
The goal had come in the 49th minute and Pembroke had another corner in the 51st minute which Tormey did well to save with an outstretched slick but they had more success in the 64th minute when after some dithering in the Garvey defence a right wing cross was converted by Eric Foy and with five minutes left in an increasingly more intense game, Garvey had just a single goal advantage.
Timmy Cockram had a great chance to settle the game when he had a one on one situation with the Pembroke keeper but could not finish the move with a goal.
Mikie Watt had two reverse stick shots in the final minutes but both were from a narrow angle and Andy Williamson put the last shot of the game past the post as Garvey were again relieved to come out on top by 3 goals to 2 to keep their large point advantage over Monkstown intact.
Another win out of the final four games will secure the title for Garvey as even Monkstown cannot gather more than 40 points, Garvey have 38 after Saturday’s win.
Garvey now turn their attention to the Irish Senior Cup final on Sunday against Monkstown at Belfield.
It is eleven years since they have brought the trophy back to Lisburn and never to the new ground at Comber Road.
The match involves arguably the two best teams in Ireland with the two meetings of the sides this season ensuring a game of the highest quality.
The first match at Comber Road back in October saw Monkstown catch Garvey cold at the start of the season to record a 5-2 defeat but by the time the re-match came about in February, Garvey had tightened their game and reversed the result with a 1-0 win after a titanic battle in Dublin.
Since then Garvey have not looked back in the Irish Hockey League and have taken an large point lead over their opponents but the Irish Cup final is a ‘one-off’ and both teams will be expecting a monumental encounter at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Both squads are packed with match winners with Peter Caruth, Steven Cole, Kyle Good and Gareth Watkins all capable of changing a game in a flash.
For Garvey, Mikie Watt, Timmy Cockram and Neil Glassey have similar qualities while both defences are well drilled so such an extent that one mistake in the last game led to Garvey snatching the vital win.
Garvey’s captain, Jonny Bell is more than keen to bring back the Cup after such a long gap and he believes he has the talent and experience in his squad to complete the deal at Belfield.
He is surrounded by players of class in defence; Paul Gleghorne, James Lorimer and Steven Arbuthnot along with seasoned goalkeeper John Tormey have all waited a long time for Irish Cup success and they firmly believe that their time has come on Sunday.
The Garvey squad will be selected from the following panel;
John Tormey [gk], Jonny Bell [capt], Paul Gleghorne, Steven Arbuthnot, James Lorimer, Richard Arneill, Daniel Buser, Timmy Cockram, Peter MacDonnell, Sean Murray, Neal Glassey, Paul Ritchie, Craig Getty, Andy Williamson, Mikie Watt, Andy Forrest, Matthew Nelson, Mark McNellis, Daniel Nelson, and reserve goalkeeper James Milliken.