Cup joy & league disappointment against the Reds

By · June 22, 2013 · Filed in Match Report
A double header against Cliftonville saw Mid Ulster travel twice to Solitude last week.  First up on Monday 17th June was a Coca Cola Cup tie.   After already losing narrowly (1-0) to Cliftonville Ladies in the first league game of the season Mid Ulster Ladies knew that the game would be physical and fast.   As expected the game started at a blistering pace with Mid Ulster creating several chances in the opening few minutes but unfortunately none of these were converted and Cliftonville had a lucky break and made no mistake in placing the ball past the advancing keeper to make it 1-0 in favour of the home team.   This seemed to be a wake-up call for Mid Ulster and great passing and movement in mid field allowed Sarah Connolly to go one-on-one with the keeper and watch helplessly as the ball went agonisingly wide of the post.   From the goal kick Chloe McCarron took control of the ball and spotting the keeper of her line chipped the ball into the net from nearly the half way line to bring the teams back on even terms.   Emma McFarland was replaced by Claire Brown in defence and Mid Ulster began to play some good creative football and from such an opportunity Hannah Turkington was on hand to volley the ball into an empty net after the keeper had came out to try and prevent the cross – 2-1 to Mid Ulster.   Within a couple of minutes Adele Gillespie showed pace and skill to beat a couple of defenders and the keeper to leave Mid Ulster 3-1 up with only 26 minutes played.   Cliftonville were not undaunted by the 3 quick goals from Mid Ulster and indeed from a direct free kick they also lobbed the Mid Ulster keeper from the half way line and 2 minutes later Mid Ulster were shell shocked when Cliftonville scored another goal at the near post from a cross.   Mid Ulster were glad to hear the half time whistle to regroup and ponder over the 6 goal first half.   The second half began in a similar vein with both teams wanting to stamp their authority on the game and whilst Mid Ulster created opportunities they were unlucky in several occasions not to go into the lead again. Adele Gillespie made way for Stacey Lee midway through the second half and a great through ball from Sarah Connolly to Stacey had the Mid Ulster bench and spectators holding their breath but a last ditch tackle thwarted the opportunity for Stacey to get a strike at goal.   With extra time looming Hannah Turkington who had run herself ragged was replaced by Louise Murphy in a last final push to try and get the win and avoid extra time. However, with both teams cancelling each other out the whistle for full time went heralding extra time.   During extra time it was a case of end-to-end football with neither team penetrating defences or having a clear shot at goal although the referee tried his best to give Cliftonville an advantage. The ref had awarded Cliftonville a free kick at the half-way line and the Cliftonville midfield player took the kick and whilst the ball was airborne the referee blew his whistle so assuming that the ball must have been moving or not taken from the right place, as the ball approached the Mid Ulster box Claire Rooney (to echo Noel Mitchells phrase) leapt like a salmon and caught the ball in both hands and duly threw it back to the Cliftonville mid field player under the assumption that the free kick would be taken again as the ref had blown his whistle.   However, to the amusement of both teams the ref then awarded Cliftonville a direct free kick for “deliberate handball” on the edge of the box. When asked to explain his decision the ref said that he had blown the whistle to allow the free kick to go ahead even though the ball was already played!   Thankfully the resulting free kick went wide and it still remained honours even. As the clock ticked down Sarah Connolly had a great shot on goal parried wide by the keeper but Mid Ulster could not capitalise from the corner kick.   Shortly afterwards the final whistle went and dreaded penalties loomed.   Mid Ulster went through to the next round of the cup after winning 4-2 on penalties with Cliftonville putting a penalty wide and Jackie Burns saving one. The 4 Mid Ulster players Claire Rooney, Lisa Richardson, Aoife Curran and Sarah Connolly all scored from the spot much to the delight of everybody involved with Mid Ulster but especially Chloe McCarron who said she was “praying Sarah scored” as she would have been the 5th penalty taker.   This results sees Mid Ulster ladies progress to the Quarter Final of the Coca Cola Cup where they will play away (yes another away game) Dromore Amateurs on Monday 8th July.   Wednesday night then brought the Mid Ulster Girls back down the M2 for the League Fixture.  Cliftonville were up for revenge after their narrow cup defeat and it wasn’t long before they took the lead.  A speculative shot from Nicola Carlin 30 yards caught everyone off guard as the ball dipped under Jacqueline Burns bar and gave the home side an early advantage.  After this early shock the Mid Ulster girls settled into the game and Sarah Connolly was just beaten to a good through ball by the Cliftonville goal keeper.  Hannah Turkington also had a chance after a good burst down the right wing and whilst her pace took her into a good shooting position the resultant shot was off target.  Mid Ulster were being restricted to shots from distance as a disciplined Cliftonville defence proved themselves difficult to break down.  Cliftonville did have chances to extend their lead but some solid defending from Claire Rooney, Claire Brown and Aoife Curran ensured that Jacqueline Burns had little to do.  The first half ended with a chance for each side as Jacqueline Burns punched clear a dangerous inswinger of a a corner from Cliftonville and then Adele Gillespie saw her snap shot at the other end go just over.   Mid Ulster started the second half brightly  and a great cross from Lisa Richardson saw Adele Gillespie get a shot away but it did not trouble the Cliftonville keeper.  Cliftonville responded immediately and Aoife Curran had to make a good block to keep the difference only one goal.  Once again the action changed swiftly to the other end of the field with Chloe McCarron setting Hannah Turkington down the right wing and her cross just evaded Louise Murphy.  Like the first half the majority of the game was being played in the middle third as both teams struggled to find the cutting edge.  A Mid Ulster substitution saw Stacey Lee replace Louise Murphy as Mid Ulster looked to try another striking option.  Minutes later Cliftonville doubled their advantage much to the dismay of the travelling support.  In hindsight the Mid Ulster defence will feel that they should have dealt with the ball down the right but as it was the cross went into the danger area and coupled with a lack of communication it was a Mid Ulster head that sent the ball goal ward.  Moments later another blow for the Mid Ulster team as Aoife Curran had to leave the field due to injury but her replacement Karen Donnell was more than up to the task.  Mid Ulster pushed on to try to get something out of the game and although Sarah Connolly and Stacey Lee both had half chances there was no return for them.  With Mid Ulster pressing Cliftonville had their chances too and Jacqueline Burns had to be brave in clearing one such opportunity.  A disappointing result for the Mid Ulster girls who will be glad to return to home soil this Wednesday night 26 June when they entertain Ballymena in the league. Team: J Burns, C Rooney, A Curran (K Donnell),C Brown, L Richardson, C McCarron, H O’Donnell, H Turkington, L Murphy (S Lee), A Gillespie, S Connolly. Subs not used: C Bowden, D Suitor, E McFarland