HOCKEY: Premier League relegation battle goes down to the wire

Randalstown's Kerry Coulter.
Randalstown's Kerry Coulter.

Just like the race for the two titles, the battle to see which team avoids the drop from the women’s Ulster Premier League has gone down to the wire with the remaining issue to be decided on Saturday.

After Wednesday night’s games, North Down will be relegated unless they defeat Rainey, whose top-flight status was secured without hitting a ball in anger.

North Down lost 1-0 to Randalstown, Kerry Coulter’s 52nd minute penalty corner giving the Co Antrim side a hard earned victory in Comber.

Portadown meanwhile fought out a 1-1 draw with Banbridge in their final match, being denied the win by a Stef McCullough equaliser which came with just 10 seconds remaining after Claire Dunn’s opener.

The net result is that the Ports now have 10 points, two more than North Down, who will be demoted if they fail to beat Rainey, who are now safe on 13 points.

As it stands, Portadown have a lifeline and will face Ballymena in a promotion-relegation play-off should North Down be unable to get the three points they need.

Ballymena guaranteed themselves the play-off and a chance to make it into the Premier League for the first time following a 3-2 home win over Victorians on Wednesday.

Emma Clarke gave Ballymena a dream start when she opened the scoring after just two minutes before Kirsten Young doubled the lead.

Joanne Orr pulled one back before the break only for Claire Gillespie to make it 3-1 with Vics’ late response through Emilia Cutrona unable to affect the outcome.

At the other end of Senior One, CI made sure of the same status next season with a decisive 4-1 win over Knock.

Goals from Lindsay Mercer, Emma Jordan and two from Rebecca Haley sealed the win which now leaves Ballyclare needing to win a play-off to stay up.