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Lisnagarvey have the play-offs in sight

By Graham Hamilton

Lisnagarvey only need three more wins from their final seven games to guarantee a place in the end-of-season Irish Champions Trophy play-offs.

Errol Lutton's lads strengthened their grip at the top of the EY Irish Hockey League by following up last week's crucial 1-0 away win over second-placed Monkstown with a 4-0 home victory over third-placed Banbridge on Saturday, although it must be said that this time the scoreline flattered them a little.

Once again their much vaunted defence, with internationals Paul Gleghorne and Jonathan Bell at the heart of things, was the base for their success - they soaked up considerable Bann pressure, particularly from the second quarter onwards.

By that time, though, they were already two goals up, with Mikey Watt setting up Andy Williamson with a baseline cross and Timmy Cockram dispatching a penalty corner.

It was hardly the start that Bann's 16-year-old goalkeeper Luke Roleston would have wanted, although on the whole he can be satisfied with his senior debut in the absence of regular custodian Gareth Lennox, who will be sidelined for the next two months following a shoulder operation, and second choice Peter Bingham away with Queen's for their European indoor campaign.

It was the second successive week Bann trailed by two goals early on but this time they were unable to turn things round, although they did give it one almighty try.

Eugene Magee cracked a superb reverse against the crossbar, Fraser Mills missed following Jonny McKee's baseline run, and Garvey keeper John Tormey stick-saved a McKee effort.

Bann's penalty corner count also racked up - but nothing would go in. And the more they pushed for a goal, the more dangerous Garvey became on the break, and they struck twice in the final six minutes.

Both came from Daniel Buser, the first after Cockram's effort was blocked and the second with a slap into the roof of the net after good work by Watt.

It means Garvey still have a seven-point lead at the top but Bann are now just one point ahead of Three Rock in third in the race for the play-off places.

At the other end of the table, Cookstown finally showed what they are capable of by ending Glenanne's recent run of wins with a fine 3-2 success in Dublin.

And with Annadale held to a 1-1 draw by Cork C of I, it means the two Ulster clubs are locked together at the bottom on six points - five adrift of the pack.

The Tyrone men's goals came from Greg Allen, Raymond Millar and Andrew McWhirter, but it needed James Cox to produce a late equaliser for the Dale who were missing top scorer Matthew Allister, even though they had dominated the game.

Meanwhile, there were shocks in both the Ulster Premier League and Senior League.

Instonians suffered their first defeat of the season when Methody schoolboy Michael Patterson scored the winner in a 2-1 success for Belfast Harlequins while Bangor went down 3-2 to nearest rivals Campbellians who now draw level with them.

There wasn't too much damage done by Inst, though, as second-placed Kilkeel had to settle for a 3-3 draw in the Mourne derby after Robbie Irwin scored a last-minute equaliser. The two meet again tomorrow evening.

EY Irish Hockey League: Lisnagarvey 4 (D Buser 2, A Williamson, T Cockram) Banbridge 0; Railway Union 0 Three Rock Rovers 1 (H Morris); Annadale 1 (J Cox) Cork C of I 1 (A Daunt); Pembroke Wanderers 0 Monkstown 3 (P Caruth, G Cole, L Cole); Glenanne 2 (S Boucher, J Brennan) Cookstown 3 (G Allen, R Millar, A McWhirter).

Ulster Premier League: Instonians 1 (J Dowling) Belfast Harlequins 2 (C Lemon, M Patterson); Newry 3 (C McKnight, D Andrews, R Irwin) Kilkeel 3 (G Russell 2, M Henning); Mossley 3 (C McClean 2, R McClintock) North Down 1 (D Shepherd); Portadown 2 (N Gilmore, S Johnstone); Raphoe 2 (S Goudie, B Wallace).

Senior League: Portrush 1 (B Smyth) Antrim 2 (J Roe, A Reilly); Campbellians 3 (J Easlie 2, S Johnston) Bangor 2 (S Hunter 2).

Irish Hockey Challenge semi-finals: Armagh 1 (M Dickson) Bray 3; Midleton 6 Galway 2.

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