Senior League Section 1 leaders Portadown Ladies had to pull out all the stops to get the better of Ballyclare in a 2-1 win on Saturday.
Defences were generally on top in an evenly contested match in Portadown, where the hosts scraped home by the odd goal in three.
The home team were first on to the scorecard from open play, but captain Suzanne Dickey soon equalised when she neatly dinked the ball over the diving goalkeeper.
For a time Ballyclare had the edge, but when Emma Patterson, Kerrie Bell and Kerry McLeod got in to the 25, the well organised home defenders snuffed out the threat.
Approaching half-time Ports got the decisive goal when they converted a penalty corner, with a shot that gave Sara Coulter no chance.
In the second session the Ballyclare defenders were stretched on several occasions, but fine tackling by Gillian McMaw, Louise Holmes and Lorraine Ashcroft ensured Coulter was not over-worked.
Portadown continue to monopolise the number one spot with an undefeated record, and they remain odds-on favourites to return to the Premier Section, while Suzanne Dickey’s girls remain in the bottom half of the table.
Ballyclare Ladies panel: S Coulter, G McMaw, V White, E Patterson, L Holmes, L Ashcroft, C Darragh, J Fox, C Dickey (C), K Bell, J Hanley, K McLeod, V Milligan.
Janice Wilson’s 2nd XI put in a good shift against Lisnagarvey III at Hillsborough in a Junior League fixture but went down 2-1.
The ‘Garvey girls who are favourites for promotion were early on the offensive, forcing Stephanie McIlroy to make a couple of excellent saves, while Jade Purdy also shone in defence.
With Katie Jamieson, Jenna Dennis and captain Janice Wilson dominant in midfield, Ballyclare began to have the upper-hand, but, against the run of play, the hosts opened the scoring and doubled their lead before the break.
Zoe Hunter had a goal disallowed before pulling one back to set up a nervy finish.
Saturday’s fixtures (January 11): 1st XI v Victorians, home; 2nd XI v Randalstown III, home; 3rd XI v Derg Valley II, away.