| 10.1°C Belfast

Pegasus win piles the title pressure on Ards

The Ulster Premier League title race has taken a dramatic new twist after leaders Ards were held to a 1-1 draw by Randalstown.

That result has handed the initiative to Pegasus, with the champions, 2-1 winners at Lurgan, now five points behind and they will be expected to win their two games in hand and overhaul their biggest rivals.

Pegausus can cut the gap at the top this Saturday when they take on Harlequins, while Ards will be in Budapest competing in the European Indoor Trophy.

Less than 48 hours after they return from Hungary, Ards face the Ulster Elks at Jordanstown before a crunch game with Pegasus. But Ards aren't pressing any panic buttons as they attempt to add the league title to the Ulster Shield they lifted after beating Pegasus in the final on Boxing Day.

"We had a good team meeting after Saturday's game and we are still feeling confident going into our last two matches," said captain Naomi Elliott.

"If we win them we win the title and that's how we are looking at the situation."

Elliott did admit she wasn't particularly happy about Saturday's display, especially in the first half.

"We started with a poor level of intensity and they scored early on, but we got a goal back quickly, had one disallowed and had lots of penalty corners," she said. "It just wasn't our day."

Catherine McGrillen put 'Town in front after nine minutes and Ards equalised within 60 seconds through Amy Benson.

The home side won the penalty corner count 10-1, but could find no way past 'Town 'keeper Ayeisha McFerran.

Pegasus had a tough battle in Lurgan and it took a late penalty corner winner from Nadine Graham to secure the points.

Kate McConnell's great run set up Vanessa Surgeoner for the opener after seven minutes and Pippa Best equalised nine minutes later.

"At least we are still in with a chance of winning the league at this stage of the season, but there's still a long way to go," said Pegasus coach Michelle Rainey.

Ulster Elks lost 4-2 to Ballymoney at the Joey Dunlop Centre after 'Money captain Katherine Minahan (2) and Jess Lynch scored inside five minutes before Paula Lee pulled one back. Minahan completed her hat-trick to make it 4-1 before Laura McAlpine reduced the deficit again.

Despite their defeat the Elks stay third in the table but the race for Irish Hockey League places is hotting up with just four points separating five teams below them.

Queen's are fourth after goals from Jodie Kee (2) and Kathryin Bryans gave them a 3-1 win over Armagh whose reply came from Julie Frazer.

In Senior One, Victorians have avoided a relegation play off after securing a 4-3 win at Banbridge with goals from Jessica Kernohan (2), Emma McAllister and Charlotte Elliott overcoming Rachel Cairns' hat-trick for Banbridge.

Four Ulster teams are through to the quarter finals of the Irish Hockey Trophy after wins for Ballymena, Cookstown, Larne and North Down.

Belfast Telegraph