The first premier league match of the season promised to be an exciting challenge for Raphoe Ladies 1st XI who finished Senior 1 undefeated.
However, Premier League is a massive step up for the Donegal side as most of their opponents will comprise of current Ulster and International players.
Raphoe started the season off strong against an experienced Randalstown squad who have played Premier league hockey for several years. The opening quarter showed promising attacking play and passing throughout the pitch, with Raphoe holding most of the possession.
Katy Love came close to opening the score line with a superb through ball from Rebecca Wauchope, where the Randalstown keeper made her first key save of the game. The opportunities kept arising for the team as they moved the ball well from defence to create openings upfront. Wendy Patterson linked well with Leanne Patterson in midfield to create a great attacking opportunity for Raphoe. Patterson was unlucky to not open the score line with a reverse shot hitting the post. Raphoe persevered with their strong attacking form, winning several short corners in first half, but were unfortunate to not convert as Randalstown worked tirelessly in defence to keep a clean sheet. Shannon Porter was a dominant player in the first half for the midfield, consistently breaking down play on the right side of the pitch for Randalstown. The first half finished with only a few attacking threats from the Randalstown forwards, as Vicky Wray, Sabrina Barnett and Janice Nelson held the defence strong consistently throughout.
Leading into the 2nd half of the game, Raphoe understood they needed to maintain their dominance and high intensity to seal the victory. However, Randalstown changed their attacking tactics and began switching the play upfront to threaten the Raphoe defensive line. Raphoe found themselves under pressure more with keeper Heather Humphries forced to make some crucial saves to hold the score line.
Raphoe quickly learned to counterattack when the opportunities arose, as Lyndsey Tinney made a superb tackle in defence and gave a quick through ball to Sabrina Barnett in the circle. Barnett found herself in a one on one situation with the Randalstown goalkeeper, where the keeper made a controversial tackle on Barnett, with no resulting free. In the final quarter of the game, the contest became heated between the two teams as both sides were eager to seal the crucial goal.
After a strong stick tackle from a Randalstown defender, they found themselves down to 10 players. Raphoe took advantage of this, by moving the ball quickly upfront to break down the defence. The decider finally came when Arlyne Kilpatrick made a strong run on the right, with a well picked pass to Sabrina Barnett in the middle. Barnett ensured the ball kept attacking down Randalstown’s weak side by finding Zara Tinney on the right. Tinney used her speed to charge the right corner of the pitch and finalising her attack by finding a pass to Leanne Patterson on the right of the circle. Patterson beat the defenders to penetrate the circle and finished with a reverse shot to top left corner, leaving no chance for the keeper to make a touch.
Randalstown worked hard to change their momentum, by introducing international player Zoe Wilson to the game. Despite this change, Raphoe did not break form, with Lisa Patterson being a crucial player in the final stages of the game by making essential tackles against the skilful international.
Raphoe’s confidence began to develop towards the end, with numerous short corners being awarded as a result of strong attacking play. Wendy Patterson was unfortunate not to seal a 2nd goal as Randalstown cleared the ball on the line after an intense battle in the circle.
The game finished 1-0 to Raphoe Ladies, who hope to carry their confidence and strong performance towards their next game against Dungannon.
Player of the Match: Lisa Patterson.
Team: Heather Humphrey, Arlyne Kilpatrick, Victoria Wray, Janice Nelson, Lisa Patterson, Zara Tinney, Sabrina Barnett, Wendy Patterson, Shannon Porter, Leanne Patterson, Katy Love, Lyndsey Tinney, Lisa Smyth, Rebecca Wauchope & Naomi Wasson