Raphoe Ladies dominated much of the game against the Senior 1 counterparts Castle at the Royal and Prior School grounds on Saturday. Their superior passing play demonstrated their pursuit of the Senior 1 title, while Castle battling spirit was visible in their attempt to avoid relegation.
While Raphoe were strong, Castle came out fighting and were equal to the pressure Raphoe put them under. The initial minutes of the game saw Raphoe scrambling to get their composure and structure, once regained they looked impenetrable.
Raphoe opened up the pitch using width and clever passing. Castle marked their players with precision and communication making the opening goal more difficult to secure. Wendy Patterson broke forward into the D when she closed down play successfully with drive and determination. Her high shot didn't trouble the keeper, when the ball returned to her stick subsequently she shot again, only to be denied for a second time. Play continued to pressure the travelling team who looked dangerous on the break at times. Castle's central midfielder, Kerri McIlroy, was very influential for her team. She was eager to get on the ball and dictate play where possible. Lyndsey Tinney put in a superb shift closing the danger this player presented with close man-to-man marking. Castle held strong in the opening half even as Raphoe's sweeping player Victoria Wray was very influential with her pass selection that was near perfection with passes reaching all areas of the park in a pattern that Castle could not read nor reach. Wray found Rebecca Wauchope on one occasion and this young lady made no mistake and sailed her shot goal bound only to be denied just like her team mates.
Sarah McErlean was very unfortunate not to put the hosts ahead after a wonderful break from the left side that cut through the Castle defence with Leanne Patterson weaving her way and finding herself in the D with goalkeeper, a defender and McErlean as company. A clever slip presented a great opportunity, yet the keeper was quick to close and the shot came off her pads and danger averted.
Shots in the first half were plentiful for the home side however their conversion rate was poor. The first half remained goalless despite excellent chances.
The first half ended and Raphoe regrouped. With Castle putting so many players behind the ball Raphoe knew they would need to create their chances on the break with speed, width and movement. Early shots failed to be converted yet again, however deadlock was soon broken when after some lovely building play down the right hand side from Raphoe, Leanne Patterson slipped the ball across the goal mouth to the awaiting stick of Wendy Patterson who rammed the ball into the roof of the net.
Play was halted due to injury when a deflection of a Castle stick saw the ball sail upwards and connect with the nose of a Castle central defender. With a heavy knock and visible injury play stopped for treatment to be administered. This player unfortunately was not to take further part in the game. To say she had been a defensive rock for her team was an understatement, however Castle proceeded in the game with continued gusto. Castle's Lois Passmore steadied her defensive line however Castle had little chance to keep the second goal at bay. Danger player Leanne Patterson couldn't be held at bay and slotted home a beautiful reverse shot into the corner, leaving the keeper with no hope of saving.
Short corners were won, shots were taken but Castle's keeper, Laura Brown, was in fine form and denied all. Sophie Wallace had an excellent poportunity sail just wide after a lovely switch left from Janice Nelson. On the right Zara Tinney and Alison Stewart caused a speedy threat, with Stewart demonstrating some exceptional cover and play break down. Castle though had moments of really good possession hockey. Raphoe couldn't be complacent with a few short corners to defend and some swift breaks.
The third goal remained elusive until the Patterson girls cut a path through the defence once more. The ball having switched beautifully down the right by Jasmine Tinney found Leanne Patterson. L Patterson's swift hands teased the Castle players and when the opportunity arose she took her shot. Wendy Patterson having made a deceptive run arrived at the back post to ensure the ball was rocketed over the line. Patterson glory again!
Raphoe were disappointed to concede with less than five minutes on the clock. Sabrina Barnett, as ever lifted, her team and set a wonderful example with her strength and calm head. Hungry for more goals Barnett and Raphoe went on the attack for a final time and this resulted in Raphoe winning a short corner. Just as V Wray was about to eject the ball to the top of the D, the Castle keeper, Brown, appeared to faint in the goal mouth. Players rushed to her aid. Play was halted and the final whistle sounded as concerns grew for the young lady. A special thanks to Raphoe player, Dr. Sarah McErlean, who on her day off, was a wonderful comfort to the Castle keeper with reassuring treatment and guidance. This player needed hospital assessment and treatment and was swiftly taken to Altnagelvin Hospital.
A game of ups and downs, determination of both sides, a nose injury and ending in concern. Raphoe wish both players a speedy recovery and hope they are back on the pitch as soon as possible.
Player of the Match: Wendy Patterson
Team: Heather Humphrey, Julie Wilson, Victoria Wray, Sabrina Barnett (Captain), Janice Nelson, Zara Tinney, Lyndsey Tinney, Wendy Patterson, Leanne Patterson, Jasmine Tinney, Lisa Smyth, Rebecca Wauchope, Sarah McErlean, Amy Wauchope, Alison Stewart & Sophie Wallace