A double header against Cliftonville saw Mid Ulster travel twice to Solitude last week. First up on Monday 17th June was a Coca Cola Cup tie.
After already losing narrowly 1-0 to Cliftonville Ladies in the first league game of the season, Mid Ulster Ladies knew that the game would be physical and fast.
As expected the game started at a blistering pace with Mid Ulster creating several chances in the opening few minutes but unfortunately none of these were converted and Cliftonville had a lucky break and made no mistake in placing the ball past the advancing keeper to make it 1-0 in favour of the home team.
This seemed to be a wake-up call for Mid Ulster and great passing and movement in mid field allowed Sarah Connolly to go one-on-one with the keeper and watch helplessly as the ball went agonisingly wide of the post.
From the goal kick Chloe McCarron took control of the ball and spotting the keeper of her line chipped the ball into the net from nearly the half way line to bring the teams back on even terms.
Emma McFarland was replaced by Claire Brown in defence and Mid Ulster began to play some good creative football and from such an opportunity Hannah Turkington was on hand to volley the ball into an empty net after the keeper had came out to try and prevent the cross – 2-1 to Mid Ulster.
Within a couple of minutes Adele Gillespie showed pace and skill to beat a couple of defenders and the keeper to leave Mid Ulster 3-1 up with only 26 minutes played.
Cliftonville were not undaunted and indeed from a direct free kick they also lobbed the Mid Ulster keeper from half way and 2 minutes later Mid Ulster were shell shocked when Cliftonville scored another goal at the near post from a cross.
The second period began in a similar vein with both teams wanting to stamp their authority on the game and whilst Mid Ulster created opportunities they were unlucky in several occasions not to go into the lead again. Adele Gillespie made way for Stacey Lee midway through the second half and a great through ball from Sarah Connolly to Stacey had the Mid Ulster bench and spectators holding their breath but a last ditch tackle thwarted the opportunity for Stacey to get a strike at goal.
With extra time looming Hannah Turkington, who had run herself ragged, was replaced by Louise Murphy in a last final push to try and get the win and avoid extra time.
During extra time it was a case of end-to-end football with neither team penetrating defences or having a clear shot at goal although the referee tried his best to give Cliftonville an advantage. The referee blew his whistle as the ball approached the Mid Ulster box Claire Rooney caught the ball in both hands and duly threw it back to the Cliftonville mid field player under the assumption that the free kick would be taken again. However, to the amusement of both teams the ref then awarded Cliftonville a direct free kick for “deliberate handball” on the edge of the box. Thankfully the resulting free kick went wide and it still remained even. As the clock ticked down Sarah Connolly had a great shot on goal parried wide by the keeper but Mid Ulster could not capitalise from the corner kick.
Shortly afterwards the final whistle went and dreaded penalties loomed.
Mid Ulster went through to the next round of the cup after winning 4-2 on penalties with Cliftonville putting a penalty wide and Jackie Burns saving one. The 4 Mid Ulster players Claire Rooney, Lisa Richardson, Aoife Curran and Sarah Connolly all scored from the spot much to the delight of everybody involved with Mid Ulster but especially Chloe McCarron who said she was “praying Sarah scored” as she would have been the 5th penalty taker.
This results sees Mid Ulster ladies progress to the Quarter Final of the Coca Cola Cup where they will play away (yes another away game) Dromore Amateurs on Monday 8th July.