Portadown Ladies took a step closer to Premier League hockey when they overcame neighbours Banbridge 3-2 in a typically competitive local derby at Edenvilla on Saturday.
The result leaves Portadown, assured now of at least a play off place, needing three points from their last three games to secure the Senior One title.
In a fairly evenly contested first half, Portadown took the lead through Jill Guiney’s penalty corner strike after 20 minutes. Banbridge too, had their chances, their penalty corner routine drawing a couple of excellent saves from young ‘keeper Zoe Jackson as both sides enjoyed spells of possession.
The home side upped the pressure at the start of the second half and were rewarded with two quick goals. Esther Dickson converted a penalty stroke, awarded after Leeanne Cassells was brought down in the circle. Cassells was involved again as her run at the heart of the defence set up captain Pam Gilpin to score, slotting in from close range to give her side a three goal lead.
Back came Banbridge forcing two quick short corners and scoring off both – one a deflection high over the ‘keeper and the second a straight shot that gave the defence on chance. The local girls, despite the scare, held their nerve and forced a series of short corners but couldn’t find the net, leaving the score 3-2.
So Portadown hold a four point lead over Cookstown, with a game in hand, and must pick up three points from away games against Ballymena, Civil Service and Victorians to clinch the title.
League action takes a break this weekend as Portadown are in action in the third round of this year’s Irish Hockey Trophy. In the tie of the round, Portadown make the short trip to Cookstown to face their Senior 1 rivals in the 4pm slot at Steelweld Park. Portadown haven’t beaten Cookstown this season, going down in the league a few weeks ago, and losing 1-0 in the semi finals of the Senior Cup back in November so it is the Co Tyrone side who start as favourites .
Portadown will be missing several regulars on Saturday as centre back Nicola Tedford, a key player for the team this year, gets married on Saturday afternoon. A very unfortunate clash of dates but we wish Nicola and David all the best for their big day!
The seconds were also in league action at Edenvilla and were unlucky to lose 3-0 against a good Ards side, while the Thirds had a good day on their travels drawing 1 each with Owls at Roughfort.
Captain Laura Smith was the on scoresheet – for both teams – deflecting home for an Owls cross but then burying a penalty corner to secure a point.