Annadale boost in battle to beat drop
Annadale coach Andrew Smyth couldn't hide his delight as his young team defied the odds and chalked up an Irish Hockey League win which could ultimately help them avoid the drop back into provincial hockey.
Everything seemed to be conspiring against the Dale as they faced Glenanne on Saturday -their inspirational international Michael Robson was ruled out injured, they had one player suspended and Smyth was fielding five schoolboys.
The outcome was a shock 2-0 win, and with fellow strugglers Cookstown crashing 6-3 at Railway Union and Cork C of I losing 3-2 at Lisnagarvey, the Lough Moss side are off the foot of the table on goal difference.
It's days like these coaches dream about - when the young players show they are capable of living at this level and the experienced players like keeper Jonny Moore and defender David Smyth hold the defence together in the face of pressure and a barrage of penalty corners.
Normally Glenanne's set-piece expert Shannon Boucher is deadly - he has scored 14 times in his last nine IHL games - but he couldn't breach the Dale defence.
It was James Cox who put the home side ahead in the first quarter, converting a penalty stroke, and Sullivan Upper schoolboys Adam McAllister and Matthew Crookshanks combined for the latter to score the second in the final quarter.
The win means they edge ahead of Cookstown on goal difference after the Tyrone men never recovered after going three down early on.
At the other end of the table, Lisnagarvey are within touching distance of landing the IHL title - their 3-2 win over Cork means they only need five points from their final five games to be crowned champions.
And for the second week in a row, they had to come from behind and for the second week in a row it was Wallace High schoolboy Matthew Nelson who produced a late winner.
The Blues were missing Michael Watt, Andy Williamson and Neal Glassey and needed goals from Sean Murray and Timmy Cockram, as well as Nelson's, to see off a stubborn Cork.
With second-placed Monkstown drawing 1-1 at home to Three Rock and third-placed Banbridge drawing 2-2 at Pembroke, it leaves Garvey a healthy 11 points clear of the pack.
Bann needed two penalty corner conversions from Stephen Dowds to earn them their point ahead of trips to fellow Ulster clubs Annadale and Cookstown over the next fortnight.
In the Ulster Premier League, two goals from John Watson helped leaders Instonians to a 5-1 success over South Antrim while Kilkeel kept in touch after Gareth Russell converted a penalty corner late on in a 3-2 win over Belfast Harlequins.
Bottom team North Down came from 4-3 behind to pip Newry 5-4 to close the gap on South Antrim, with Newry now dragged into the trouble zone.
In the Senior League, Queen's are the new leaders after beating rivals Campbellians 3-0, while Bangor lost 2-1 to Antrim.
EY Irish Hockey League: Lisnagarvey 3 (S Murray, T Cockram, M Nelson) Cork C of I 2 (J Jermyn, P Sweetnam); Railway Union 6 (M English 3, J Dick 2, S McKeever) Cookstown 3 (R Millar, G Allen); Annadale 2 (J Cox, M Crookshanks) Glenanne 0; Pembroke 2 (A Sothern 2) Banbridge 2 (S Dowds 2); Monkstown 1 (G Sarratt) Three Rock Rovers 1 (D Walsh).
Premier League: Instonians 5 (J Watson 2, J Dowling, W Robinson, A Patterson) South Antrim 1 (C Henry); Kilkeel 3 (M Henning, G Niblock, G Russell) Belfast Harlequins 2 (J Hutchinson, C Lemon); Civil Service 1 (S Armstrong) Portadown 1 (A Stevenson); Mossley 2 (C McClean, R Brown) Raphoe 1 (W Kilpatrick); Newry 4 (D England, A Foster, J Taylor, K McCombe) North Down 5 (P Wilson 2, G McKeown, D Shepherd, R McMillan).
Senior League: Campbellians 0 Queen's 3 (G Leckey, R Kelly, M Warnock); Bangor 1 (M McComb) Antrim 2 (D Wilson, J Roe)