In the final fixture of the Linden Cup group stages Portrush played a strong Queens University team who travelled up to the Quay road for an exciting 70 minutes of hockey.
With much preparation throughout the week in training, new tactics and a change in formation, the revised tactics left Portrush feeling confident going into the match.
As the match began it wasn’t long before Portrush made an impact on the game. On the second minute of play great play by Callum Mckeeman in the D won Portrush a short corner, injected to Brent smith who fired away his precise drag flick which the keeper just about saved, only for Aaron Kerr to pick up the ball and flick it into the net in style to make it 1-nil to the Ports.
As the game came back underway, what seemed to be a startled Queens team soon found their feet, earning a short corner, luckily for the Portrush defence a high shot was disallowed a the ports still had the lead. However with Queens on the offence, eventually an unstoppable ball of which the queens forward made full use of by deflecting the ball past Gordy to make it 1-1.
As both teams were now back on level terms it was clear the next goal was vital for the outcome of the game. This resulted in a very fast, high intensity game of hockey, but Portrush were not deterred, and with an impressive flick by Neil McMaster on to Brent Smith who beat the last defender to score from a tight angle.
The game began to open up. After a spell of sharp, intricate play from Andy Christie and Aaron Kerr, Portrush threatened to widen the goal margin and take a firm grip of the game into the half time interval.
With Portrush now back in the lead, and beginning to exploit holes in the Queens defence.
Queens were determined not to let the ports wall away with the win, forcing the ball out and soaking up whatever pressure Portrush had to offer. But the pressure Portrush had built up was to no avail and nearing the final stages of the 1st half queens found the goal for a second time to make it all even at 2-2.
In the final stages of the 1st half Portrush had settled, played the ball better and obtained more possession, so it wasn’t long until Portrush impacted the game another time.
A great piece of play originating from Ryan Smith in the defence, then played a ball down the right hand flank of the pitch, finding Leon Smith and with some sharp play on the ball, then found Callum McKeeman who managed to beat his man on the edge of the scoring area, to then have the composure and vision on the ball to find Graeme Christie lurking in around the middle of the scoring area to cooly beat the Queens ‘keeper and put Portrush into a 3-2 lead with half-time just around the corner.
After the break, the game settled briefly and unfortunately for Portrush, Queens where the first to strike, a powerful shot from the edge of the scoring area made it all even for a third time of the game at 3-3.
As the game recommenced Portrush played for the win, pressing the queens defence, firing away some hefty shots which the Queens ‘keeper somehow managed to save. However, with the Portrush team so far up the pitch attacking queens defence, the Ports where exposed at the back. So when queens eventually broke down the play, the counter attack was impossible to defend. A ball in from the left found a queens striker to score at a close range to make it 3-4.
For the first time in the game Portrush found themselves a goal behind the pressure soon became apparent. Shortly after queens took the lead, a miscommunication in the Portrush defence saw queens take advantage to score another to make it 3-5.
As the game wound down Portrush fought and fought desperate not to let queens walk away with a win.
Portrush continued on the attack, a short corner won by Andy Christie who’s attacking intent had been a thorn in the Queens defence all day, then led to another good save by the Queens ‘keeper.
The ports then had a sustained period of pressure on the Queens team, with some storming performances in the midfield and wingback positions, the pressure paid off with a superbly taken second goal from Brent Smith.
Portrush continued to maintain the pressure in the final minutes of the game but it wasn’t enough, and another unfortunate defeat for the Portrush side.
With immense performances in the midfield, from Andy Christie, Leon smith and Aaron Kerr, Portrush aim to take the Positives out of this seasons Linden Cup and aim to improve to compete in Senior 1.
Also a great performance upfront by Brent Smith with a tactical change in position with worked in the ports favour, Graeme Christie and Callum McKeeman giving great games too.
Portrush 1st XI:- Gordon McAlister (GK) Richard McNabb Andrew McConaghie Neil McMaster Aaron Kerr Andrew Christie Greame Christie Brent Smith Leon Smith Barry Mcmullan Callum Mckeeman Ryan Smith Philip Linton Craig Henry
Man of the match:- Andrew Christie