BANBRIDGE ACADEMY BOYS’ HOCKEY
John Minnis Estate Agents Burney Cup Quarter–Final: Banbridge Academy 2-0 RBAI
Wednesday 27 February saw the Banbridge Academy Boys’ Hockey 1st XI in action at Havelock Park in a highly contested quarter final of the John Minnis Estate Agents Burney Cup against Royal Belfast Academical Institution. The match began at a rapid pace with Banbridge, sponsored by Prentice Mini BMW and Sinton’s at the Bridge, coming close within the first minute. Luke McConnell stole the ball cleanly from an Inst defender at the edge of the circle but dragged his shot marginally wide. This early exchange set the tempo for the match and highlighted the danger Banbridge posed up front. Throughout the early exchanges, both teams showed signs of nerves with some unforced errors creeping in from both sides. The Banbridge forward press caused the RBAI defence much bother when distributing from the back, with Philip Campbell and Chris Curry making some excellent interceptions giving the forward line a chance to launch quick attacks. However, Inst were well disciplined in protecting the circle and slowed Bann’s quick attacks allowing them to defend in numbers, which proved difficult for Banbridge who were eager to open the score early on in the game.
After the opening exchanges, Bann slowed the frantic pace of the game down and focused on maintaining possession and moving the ball wide. This stemmed from the backline of defenders, Lewis Bingham, Harry Lockhart and Ryan Simms who platformed the ball effectively through to midfield where Captain Mark Barlow and Edward Rowe led the attack creating many chances but just lacked the clinical edge when in the circle. With Banbridge stepping many players forward, this at times left the defence open to a counter attack which the quick visiting forwards were well aware of and caused some trouble when they turned the ball over and attacked down the flanks.
However, it was Banbridge who struck first with 15 minutes played after a great piece of short passing down the right hand side. The goal came from Edward Rowe dispossessing an Inst forward deep in the Banbridge half. He played an exquisite pass to new comer Luke Watt who kept his composure, beat a defender and played in fellow Under 15 player Cody Large, whose quick shot caught the keeper off guard and put Bann deservedly 1-0 up.
RBAI then had to come out and play more and to their credit they began to cause more problems and showed some excellent individual skills while on the ball knowing they had to get back in the game. However, Banbridge were able to keep their shape and made it hard for the opposition to create space in the final third and held out until half time.
The second half started much like the first with Bann creating opportunities with relative ease, with Chris Curry and Louis Rowe getting through on goal. The most prominent chance came from Lewis Groves who found himself in yards of space at the backpost when the ball fell to him but unfortunately his backhand shot missed by inches, catching the Inst keeper off his line. As the second half progressed Bann came closer and closer to finding their second but a strong Inst defence and several great saves from their keeper kept the score 1-0. Edward Rowe had chances from multiple short corners to boost his staggering goal tally for the season but he couldn’t find the back of the net. As the end of the second half neared, it was clear that both sides were beginning to tire and with the intense heat it felt all the worse on the pitch. With just minutes left, Inst found themselves agonisingly close to finding an equaliser. One excellent aerial from their centre back outdid the Bann defence that had kept strong all game and finally called keeper Ross Stewart into action. He closed down the oncoming forward and partially blocked the shot but relied on Ryan Simms to clear the ball off the goal line sparking a Banbridge counter attack where pieces of individual skill and great passing from the senior players was rewarded by winning a short corner. After several attempts Edward Rowe finally put his name on the score sheet as he beat the number one runner and swept the ball powerfully into the back of the net. Seconds later the final whistle went and Banbridge rejoiced as they were back in a Burney Cup semi-final. Inst proved tough opponents and demonstrated some great pieces of play but Bann performed well enough to get the win with some younger players showing great maturity and playing to their best.
Banbridge Academy now await their opponents for the semi-finals which will take place on Wednesday 13 March.
Squad: Ross Stewart, Ryan Simms, Lewis Bingham, Harry Lockhart, Mark Barlow, Lewis Groves, Edward Rowe, Philip Campbell, Luke McConnell, Chris Curry, Louis Rowe, Matthew McClimonds, Cody Large, Luke Watt.
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