AFTER the disappointment of last weeks Intermediate Cup defeat Lurgan Celtic travelled to the new Queen’s complex and came back with three hard earned points and a 1-0 win after a tough and exciting battle which kept the crowd enthralled for the full 90 minutes.
The Hoops were quickly out of the blocks taking the game to home team and gained an early free kick which Aaron Haire headed wide and they maintained the pressure keeping Queens on the back foot but the home side started to look dangerous in a few breaks, however the Hoops defence kept a firm grip on them giving no space to the lively attackers. Haire put in a good cross and Dee McPartland saw an effort cleared before the home side broke upfield only to see Donegan intercept to yield a corner which was cleared by the Hoops.
Daniel Ryan and Haire combined and gained a free which was only partially cleared and McEvoy following up hit a strong shot which cannoned off the defence to the relief of the Queen’s players and shortly afterwords Ryan got his head to a cross but it lacked power and the keeper easily saved it, but at this stage it was Celtic who were making the better chances and should have been a goal ahead. Haire who was causing all sorts of problems up front then received the ball
on the right and twisted and turned four defenders but his low cross eluded everyone and shortly afterwards the Hoops should have taken the lead but O’Hare shot inches wide to the dismay of the Hoops support.
Queens nearly took the lead when they evaded the Hoops defenders and as the ball rolled towards the goal McVeigh calmly took control and guided the ball safely away from the line and Celtic went back upfield and missed another chance when Raymond Fitzpatrick headed wide.
Towards the end of the first half Drainey and a Queens forward chased a ball and as the Celtic defender was seeing the ball safely over the line both players got entangled and fell awkwardly into the metal fence which is close to the end line and were badly injured having to leave the field after lengthy treatment.
The start of the second half commenced with Queens forcing a couple of frees which were easily dealt with and in a Celtic move Ryan hit an effort well over the bar despite being well placed but the Hoops scored what was to be the winner on 60 minutes after a Queens player pulled the shirt of a Celtic defender as the teams lined up for a free on the edge of the area and Lavery sent his shot low into the right hand side to score.
The Queens manager protested so much about the free that he was sent off, but the fact is it was a foul.
The home side sent on David Magee to inject some pace into the attack and went all out for an equaliser but the Hoops came close with efforts from McPartland and Ryan coming close and Queens then applied heavy pressure with Lavery and Donnelly leading the charge as they put an almighty effort into saving the game but could not find a way past a solid Celtic back line although Lavery missed an absolute sitter in front of goal and despite the chances made by both teams the respective keepers had few goalbound shots to save. Although Ciaran Fox in the Hoops goal was the busier in the second half it was mostly cross balls he had to contend with and a few tamely hit shots. Play continued from end to end but Celtic couldn’t get a second goal.
This game was a test of not only Celtic’s ability but also their character and they passed the test, as games between the sides are usually very tight and this was no exception. After the game Shannon Drainey was going to hospital to get stitches in his knee and hopefully no other damage will be revealed so that he can quickly take his place back in the side.
The race for second place in Championship 2 is now hotting up with only five points between four teams below leaders Knockbreda.
This week Celtic take yet another break from the league when they entertain Fivemiletown at Knockramer in the Mid-Ulster Cup with the earlier kick off time of 2.00pm.