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Non Sibi Cunctus.
Match : 2nd XI v Larne 2nds
Date : 2002-09-21
Venue : A
Score : 1-2
Scorers : Johnson
By Stuart Campbell
Larne away, on gravel, first game of the season. Dont you just love the fixture computer.
This game was never going to be easy against a Larne team who were playing Junior 4 hockey last year we knew we would have to adapt our game and look to the experience in the team to steady the ship on, it must be said, an absolute disgrace of a pitch.
The game started at a ferocious pace with East having the early possession and attempting to pass the ball short to stick, sometimes this works on gravel and sometimes it doesn't. East pressed forward early on and were actually playing "sexy hockey" (Devlins words not mine). With slick passing down the wings we began to pressurise the Larne circle.
Only five minutes into the game and Neil had a shot on goal rebound back to him, but Larne cleared down their right wing were Paul Grant hassled for possession and drilled the ball straight back into the circle were Neil Johnston swung his mighty sabre and watched in awe as the ball flew into the corner of the net. A fantastic goal 1-0.
Would this settle the nerves and allow us to play even more attractive hockey. No it would not. We did try and play but Larne were awakened by the goal and began to press forward. A scramble in the circle and eventually a Larne shot on goal to the far post, but Mark was there to tidy up, o no he wasn't, o yes he was. He was there but his attempt to tidy up was thwarted by the Larne forwards who pounced on him and jostled the ball into the back of the net. A fair goal, no complaints and the game was level again.1-1.
Larne did score again and it was a tale of two stories, never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever should a player be allowed to run from their own half way line into the oppositions 25 without a very strong challenge being put in somewhere, well he did, and Larne have this wee fat bloke who plays up front, who hits the ball like a bullet and has a back swing that lasts about 0.0001 of a second, oh and he can hit it from just about anywhere.
Apparently he is called Willie.
Add these together and mix with a half decent pass into the circle there will only be one outcome. 2-1 down after such a great start.
Changes were imminent Neil J came off, Phil Irwin on at left wing, Stephen Nichol came off and Soupy went on at right wing.
These changes had limited if any effect and half time arrived with East 2-1 down.
The second half saw the debut of new keeper Daryll Hutton and the welcome back of Peter (message board king) McStea.
Daryll had very little to do in his 20 minutes slot as east surged forward and basically set up camp in the Larne circle but as Paul Frasier said we "couldn't score in a whorehouse with 2 weeks holiday pay".
Not for the want of trying or lack of effort. We created bucket loads of chances, had numerous shortconers and a few goal line clearances but the ball just refused to pass the Larne goal-line.
Larne still looked dangerous on the break and Gordon Gillespie, Paul Leitch and Ivan McStea were on alert to thwart any attack.
With time running out for a valuable point East threw Caution to the wind and sweeper Paul Leitch surged forward, but alas this was too little too late. I must wear my watch during games.
There is no need to be too disheartened from this result or display. There will be very few teams who go to Larne and dominate for much of the game as we did, create as many chances as we did or match Larne every step of the way both in skill and aggression.
We can take some comfort from this but Saturday just was not meant to be our day.
What we do now is make sure next Saturday is our day and also look forward to Larne at Ballysillan in the return fixture.
All players gave a good account of themselves for the first game of the season, but Neil Johnson was superb in a surging forward role, fighting for every ball and showing a level of aggression required for this type of game.
Also thank you to Mark McD and David D who each umpired a half each and came under extreme pressure from both Larne and East players. Hand gestures to the oppositions captain were merely to suggest he was talking too much and nothing else as may have been thought by onlookers.