Pegasus move further clear as Belfast Quins stun Loreto

Women’s EY Hockey League round-up
Pembroke Wanderers 1 (A Naughton) Ards 2 (H Platt 2)
Harriet Platt scored on the double to earn Ards their first win of the season, a vital one as it lifts them out of range of Muckross for the time being in the relegation playoff place.

Pembroke had taken the lead in the fourth minute via Aisling Naughton but the advantage did not last long as Platt pounced on a loose ball in the 11th minute to slot into the corner for 1-1.

And they had the Dubliners on the back foot for much of the first phases but bounced back in the second with Gillian Pinder flashing a chance wide as did Naughton from a lovely Pinder pass.

Ards, meanwhile, were efficient in attack at went in front with their first foray forward in the second half, intercepting and then working a one-two which Platt finished off. A couple of Pembroke corners were kept at bay by Naomi McKnight’s defence as they held firm to record an important victory that lifts their chances of survival.

Old Alexandra 0 Pegasus 3 (S McCay, T Doherty, A Speers)
Pegasus extended their lead at the top of the women’s EYHL to four points as they won well at Old Alex. Alex did have the first major chance when a penalty corner was upgraded to a stroke but Lisa Jacob saw her effort saved by Megan Todd.

Pegasus’s high-pressing caused problems from early on but they could not find their way past Pam Smithwick and when they did, it was pegged back for an earlier penalty corner infringement, leaving it 0-0 at quarter-time. Alex Speers hit the post from another chance but Alex were also creating a decent amount and forced a couple of corners from which Erika Hinkson threatened.

The deadlock was broken in the second half when Speers surging run led to a corner which Shirley McCay – back after a head injury – smacked in from the top of the circle. McCay was called on to stop an Alex chance on the line from Hannah Kelly as the tie remained in the balance into the final quarter.

But the Ulster side had the key second goal when Taite Doherty tapped in at the back post following a swift attack along the baseline. And the icing was put on the cake following good play from McCay whose overhead to Speers led to a shot which Smithwick saved but her rebound fell to her to tap in.

Belfast Harlequins 3 (R Johnston 2, Z Wilson) Loreto 3 (S Torrans 2, S Clarke)
Belfast Harlequins and Loreto served up a cracking contest at Deramore where the hosts staged a stunning comeback from 3-1 down to salvage a hard-earned 3-3 draw. It was the same outcome as in the corresponding game last season although the circumstances were vastly different as, on that occasion, it was Loreto who came from 3-0 down to snatch a point with a last second Hannah Matthews strike.

Not for the first time this season, Quins made a slow start and Nicci Daly – one of five World Cup silver medallists on show – had a backhand shot well saved by Helen Stevenson in the sixth minute and then Siofra O’Brien fired narrowly wide.

Sarah Clarke’s effort from the first penalty corner of the match was expertly charged down by Rachel Johnston in the 10th minute. Twelve minutes later, Quins went in front with a brilliantly executed goal, started and finished by two London silver medallists.

As she fell on the slippery surface, Lizzie Colvin did well to find Jenna Watt and she, in turn, passed to Rhiannon Coulter whose right wing delivery was touched home first time by Zoe Wilson.

After Ali Meeke had sent a shot agonisingly past the far post, Clarke netted the equaliser in the 27th minute from a set-piece that was slipped left and her fierce shot gave Stevenson no chance.

After Daly had another effort well stopped, Sarah Torrans made it 2-1 at the long break with a cracking reverse stick finish and a minute after the restart the Irish international spun and shot low into the net for number three.

Quins looked dead and buried at that stage but Loreto were unable to see the game out and, in the 42nd minute, Johnston pulled one back with a penalty corner deflection out of the Anna O’Flanagan World Cup book. On the hour and with play continuing to swing from end to end, Johnston grabbed the equaliser with a replica of her first.

Both team had chances to win it in the final few minutes and Stevenson had the last word when she pulled off a stunning save from Ali Meeke.

Muckross 1 (R Cuddy) Cork Harlequins 2 (Y O’Byrne, R Barry)
Muckross were denied a crucial point late on by Rebecca Barry’s lovely deflection as Cork Harlequins made it three wins in-a-row to strengthen their place in the top four.

The first half burst into life in the minute before the break with Yvonne O’Byrne finishing off after Barry’s clever lift and cross from the left baseline led to a tap-in.

Rachel Cuddy equalised almost immediately when she slammed home a sharp chance, arriving just on time after Sophie Barnwell’s brilliant run got her clear down the right, pulling back behind the first wave of attackers to set up the chance.

And that was how it remained through a tight third quarter where a couple of cards were shown and Ellie McLoughlin made some key saves from penalty corners.

The winner came in the last 10 minutes when O’Byrne returned the favour for the earlier assist, taking a sideline ball quickly and firing it at pace into the circle where Barry ramped it into the roof of the goal. Muckross had a late corner chance but could not convert and now sit four points away from the relegation playoff place.

Railway Union 1 (K Lloyd) UCD 2 (A Russell, B Barr)
Bethany Barr’s first official goal for UCD settled a high-quality contest at Park Avenue as UCD continue to put the pressure on the top two while Railway suffered a setback in their playoff hopes.

Lena Tice (UCD) and Anna-May Whelan (Railway) were among two key players unavailable to play and it was Railway who struck the first shot in anger when Kate Lloyd shot into the sideboard early on.

UCD went 1-0 up when Abbie Russell chased after a long, hopeful ball which few would have expected her to retrieve but she came storming through and fired a rocket reverse past the advancing Carolyn Crampton for a cracking opening goal.

It was a deserved lead after they were well on top in the second quarter but Railway equalised in the 44th minute when Lloyd scored into an empty net after good team play via Katie Fearon and then Zara Delany who crossed.

But the students bounced back to get the winner in the fourth quarter after a hard cross from Leah McGuire was tapped in by Barr at the back post. Railway did have a corner with less than a minute to go but Emer Lucey’s strike was saved by Clodagh Cassin and then cleared.

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