The Lisburn men welcomed Queen’s to Prospect Hill on Saturday, knowing a win would take them within three points of becoming Senior One champions with three games remaining.
South Antrim started the game on the front foot, looking to put the game to bed in the first half.
The forward line worked hard in the opening minutes but couldn’t break down a stubborn Queen’s back line.
South saw nearly all of the possession in the opening exchange, penning the Students back for periods with attack after attack.
However, this cavalier style of play backfired, and ten minutes in, a clearance from midway in the Queen’s circle travelled the length of the pitch to a lone forward unmarked in South’s D. He rounded the keeper but saw his shot blocked by a foot from a valiant Mark Gray trying to make up the ground.
A penalty stroke was subsequently awarded and routinely dispatched with ease by Stuart McQueen.
The South Antrim team, now playing a little more deservedly, being aware of Queens’ long ball threat, managed to win three short corners in quick succession midway through the half, the first of which was saved superbly with an outstretched leg to deny a Chris Henry deflection.
The second produced a top drawer save from an Adam Glass drag flick low to the left and the third saved off the line from a Simon Watt shot.
South thought they had the equaliser in the final minutes of the half when Paul Maguire found in space in the circle after a mazy Henry run, Maguire fired his reverse goal wards only for the in-form Queens’ keeper get a toe on it and put it over the bar.
The half ended 1-0 to the visitors and South wondering what they had to do to score and if they’d blown their chance for the much needed 3 points.
After inspirational words from coach Drew Campbell and skipper Lee Marshall, the home side got jacked up again and came out in the second half playing the flowing attacking hockey they are becoming so well known for.
With a higher press in place, the midfield line of Adam Marshall, Ward Phillips and Paddy Cochrane could pick off the Queen’s passes with ease higher up the pitch.
One such occasion, five minutes into the half, saw Henry link up with Cochrane on the right wing and win a short corner after finding a defenders foot in the circle.
A smooth routine, saw a slip returned to the injector, Lee Marshall, who deflected the ball to Watt in the centre of the circle where he flicked the ball over the diving goalkeeper. South didn’t have to wait too much longer to go ahead. Adam Marshall intercepted a stray pass from a now disjointed Queens side and played in Paul Maguire whose perfectly weighted through ball found Matthew Getty on the 25.
Getty rolled his man with ease and raced into the opposition circle before slipping a delicate flick past the on rushing keeper. Queen’s did give South a moment of discomfort as a brief foray saw Gavin Leckey attempt an audacious lob, he beat Mark Hutchinson sliding out but couldn’t beat Chris Redpath on the goal line.
South eventually put the game beyond doubt after numerous chances when Simon Watt dribbled into in the circle and unleashed a shot, the goalkeeper saved, only for the ball to fall to Maguire, who showed great composure and selflessness to pass to Phillips at the back post to deflect in. Phillips could have added to the tally minutes later when he controlled a high ball in the D and half volleyed his shot on target but too close to the keeper, who palmed it over the bar.
Now in complete control of the game and able to show some swagger, South pulled off a passage of superb passing play as Adam Marshall dispossessed a Queens midfielder and played the ball to Phillips on the left, who reversed it first time infield to Getty, who in turn played an excellent through ball to Henry. Henry ghosted past the keeper with an elaborate dummy only to see a weak shot cleared off the line by a defender.
The game finished 3-1 to the hosts and South look to seal the league title next week away to struggling Antrim. Thanks as ever to Club sponsors Phillips Volkswagen for their continued support.