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Robinson worried by Instonians' backlog of fixtures


Action stations: Inst captain William Robinson expects his side to be faced with a busy midweek schedule in 2020
Action stations: Inst captain William Robinson expects his side to be faced with a busy midweek schedule in 2020
Mark Crooks

By John Flack

Instonians ended South Antrim's 100% record with a 2-1 win in Lisburn on Saturday to send out a statement that they won't be giving up their Ulster Premier League title easily.

However, it took a late goal from Ross Kelly to seal the points after a disjointed game that saw a host of cards dished out by the umpires.​

Michael Keane had given Inst the lead before Adam Glass levelled matters with 10 minutes left as the champions bounced back from last week's disappointing draw with Raphoe.​

Inst captain William Robinson was delighted with the win which leaves his side just two points behind North Down, with two games in hand after the Comber men lost 4-2 at Mossley.​

But Robinson is concerned that his team still have 17 league games to play with additional commitments in the second-tier of the Irish Hockey League.​

"We had around three weekends with no game in October which has never happened before so it has been very start-stop and it looks like we will be set for numerous midweek games in 2020," he said.​

"We are hoping the win against South can start to give us some momentum in what has been a frustrating season so far.​

"It was a good performance and I felt we should have won by more and we had numerous chances to add a second goal before they equalised.​

"There were about 10 cards in the game which was frustrating as it was never a malicious match - at one stage it was eight versus eight."​

While Instonians face a packed fixture schedule next year, Cookstown's backlog is even greater as they have played just three league games out of a total of 22 and are also involved in IHL 2.​

On Saturday, the Tyrone side couldn't hit the dizzy heights that saw them beat Pembroke, from the top-flight, in the Irish Cup a week earlier but a double strike by Jack Haycock secured a 2-0 win over basement side Queen's at the Dub.​

"I think we've come away from that game feeling a wee bit disappointed and we know that we weren't at the level that we expect from ourselves, especially considering the way we played the week before," said team captain Mark Crooks.​

"We were a few players short but we struggled to get going, to control the ball at times, although the big positive is that we were still able to secure all the points and get another clean sheet out of it.​.

"All in all, it has been a strong end to 2019 and we are a team that is, hopefully, building towards getting back into the EYHL, one that sets high standards, despite being relatively young across the board.

"We have been pretty consistent throughout and we've been scoring plenty of goals and are yet to concede. So we have always found something positive to take forward to the next match.​

"Yes, we're a few games behind in the league and that can have an effect, but at this stage it's hard to know if it's a positive or a negative. ​

"The coaches will be putting pressure on us anyway so that'll not be a factor - we have to get comfortable with that. and, as a group, we tend to concentrate on the next game rather than those way down the line anyway."​

Meanwhile Annadale, who have lost a host of experienced players this season, continue to struggle in the IHL and stay rooted to the bottom of the table after Saturday's 8-0 drubbing by UCD in Dublin.

They have just a single point to their name going into the mid-season break.​

Dale coach Richard Fairman said: "It has certainly been a steep learning curve for what is a very young squad and we had eight schoolboys in the side on Saturday."

"It's not the sort of league that kids can learn in easily but I have been very proud of they way they have played against much more experienced opponents.

"We are not looking too far ahead or setting any targets this season as that would be foolish, so it's just a matter of going out and taking each game as it comes and we will keep plugging away."​​

Results: EYHL: UCD 8 Annadale 0. Ulster Premier League: Kilkeel 5 (J Aiken, W Annett 2, M Henning, D Finlay) Newry Olympic 1 (K Fletcher); Mossley 4 (J Robinson 2, S Todd, J Lyall) North Down 2 (J Moore, P Templeton); Portadown 4 (S Johnson, G Titler, A Stevenson, S Watson) Ballynahinch 2 (A Dodds, J Campbell); Queen's 0 Cookstown 2 (J Haycock 2); Raphoe 10 (S Goudie 3, T Orr 2, T Eaton, L Stewart, G Leckey, G Patterson, J Long) Bangor 0; South Antrim 1 (A Glass) Instonians 2 (M Keane, R Kelly). Ulster Intermediate League: Antrim 2 (D Wilson 2) Belfast Harlequins 9 (M Gray 3, M Patterson 3, C Lemon 2, A Murphy); PSNI 1 Civil Service 8 (T Priestly, M Vincent, C Morrison,J Preece, C Barnes 4); Portrush 1 CI 1.

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