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Mid-Ulster Ladies returned to league duty this week with a tough fixture against Newington Ladies, the team many tip to take the league title. The Cookstown girls started slowly allowing the visitors to run through their defenses with uncharacteristic ease. The girls got an early wake-up call when in the space of 10 minutes they found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-0 score line. They were, however, lucky to still have eleven players when keeper Tracey Bell decided she was a defender and came streaking out of her penalty area to stop an on-coming Belfast striker. She unfortunately missed the ball but did manage to get the player, the resulting free-kick lead to the visitors second goal.

The Mid-Ulster girls eventually decided to play and the speed of strikers Laura Burton and Stacey Hodgett and wingers Julie Kirkpatrick and Michelle Derby started to tell. Mid-Ulster pressed forward knowing they needed a quick reply if they were to have any chance of a come back.

Newington where however a different caliber of team from the one Mid-Ulster had faced last week and defenders Natasha Stewart, Elaine Junk, Karen Stirrup and Ruth Brown were kept busy in containing some very skilful play from the Belfast side. Mid-Ulster started to make more of an impact on the game with Ruth and Natasha taking the opportunity to move forward and stretch the play a bit more. With the Cookstown girls looking more and more threatening their first goal looked imminent, and inevitably the move started with the back line. Ruth robbed the Newington Player and her clever pass found Julie unmarked on the left wing. She neatly side-stepped a lunging tackle and found Laura on the left wing, who cut inside two defenders and slammed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the Newington net.

Mid-Ulster were rampant and only the half-time whistle stopped them drawing level.

Mid-Ulster 1 Newington 2

Mid-Ulster started the second half in the same vein, the back line was solid and with mid-fielders Heather Hunniford and Pamela Bates finding more room some excellent attacking moves were created, ensuring the Newington keeper was kept very busy.

Mid-Ulster pushed forward in search of their fully deserved equaliser, but it took some very clever play to break down the experienced Belfast back line. Mid-Ulster won a throw-in and Natasha's long ball deceived the Newington defenders who were marking too closely. The throw found Stacey in space on the right wing, she cut the ball in-side to Laura who, noticing the keeper was defending the near-side post, shot across goal and was rewarded when the ball found the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

The game from then on was an end-to-end affair and both teams creating plenty of goal scoring opportunities, and only some stout defending and tight marking kept the scores level. Tracey Bell in the Mid-Ulster goal made up for her earlier yellow card by denying the Belfast strikers time and time again.

A share of the points looked the likely outcome with only 10 minutes to go when Newington threatened to spoil the party once again. Their third goal came from some sloppy play by Mid-Ulster, the mid-field failed to track back and left their defense out-number with disastrous results. The Cookstown girls had not played so well just to go home empty handed and the addition of substitutes Judith Black for Julie Kirkpatrick and Oonagh McCann for Stacey Hodgett gave the team new heart. They surged forwarded in search of the equaliser but it was the addition of super sub Sharon McGuckin that proved to be the catalyst. Her first touch of the ball found the ever available Laura free in the penalty box and she was unlucky not to complete her hat-trick, but had to settle for a corner after forcing a great save from the Belfast keeper. Laura swung the corner into a crowded penalty box and in the confusion Ruth Brown sneaked in to head home her first goal of the season.

In the dying minutes the Cookstown girls were unfortunate not to steal both points when Laura beat several defenders only to see her effort firmly stopped by the Newington keeper. The girls went home slightly disappointed knowing they'd had the ability to beat the Belfast team but looking forward to doing just that in the return fixture.

Mid-Ulster 3 Newington 3

Player of the Match
Natasha Steward

Totally unpassable in defence

Squad - Tracey Bell, Heather Hunniford, Natasha Stewart,
.............Karen Stirrup, Ruth Brown,.Michele Derby
.............Pamela Bates, Julie Kirkpatrick, Laura Burton,
.............Oonagh McCann
.............Elaine Junk, Judith Black, Sharon McGuckin, Sheree Junk

Match Ball sponsored by Darren Gordon of Fairhill Restaurant