Lavery penalty enough to seal first win for Hoops

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A second half Chris Lavery penalty was enough to secure Lurgan Celtic their first win in Championship 1.

The clash at Loughgall was a close encounter but the Hoops held on for the three points.

Raymond Fitzpatrick and Adam Rodgers were still out through suspension while striker Dale Malone was also unavailable.

Loughall started the brighter and Celtic struggled to find any fluency in the opening exchanges being kept on the back foot by the home side.

The Hoops defenders held firm with Steven Hutchinson in particular looking in dominant form backed up by Shane McCabe.

Loughall missed a gilt edged chance on 12 minutes when Warner Mullan blasted over the bar from point blank range to the dismay of the home supporters and already a tremendous personal battle had developed between Chris Lavery and Loughall’s right back Tavarez with first one then the other coming out on top.

Niall Lavery found his namesake with a fine pass and the Hoops front man shot narrowly wide as Celtic came more into the game although Mullen up front for the home side looked menacing in their attacks as play went from end to end.

On the half hour mark Marcus Dallas was booked for a dangerous tackle and dissent and moments later Chris Lavery broke down the left and fired in a low cross which eluded everyone.

Loughall had the edge in possession and although Colly Rooney showed a lot of grit and determination in midfield he was booked for a strong tackle and subsequently had to be careful in his challenges afterwards to avoid a second booking and dismissal. Josh Barton and Steven Doyle were hardly involved at all and Aaron Haire was isolated up front giving the home defenders a fairly easy task of defending their goal but in the 43rd minute Chris Lavery fired in a great cross from the right and Barton’s close range header was deflected over the bar for a corner leaving the game scoreless at the break.

Niall Lavery and Colly Rooney were replaced by Ronan O’Hara and Ruiri McCann in a bid to bolster up the midfield and McCann in the 55th minute headed an effort just over the bar. Hutchinson headed narrowly wide from an O’Hara free as Celtic’s front players began to open up the home defence.

Ten minutes from time Haire received the ball and ran at the home defence cutting across the 18 yard area and as he ran down the right towards goal a defender took him down and the Hoops were awarded a penalty. Up stepped Chris Lavery who made no mistake. Barton chipped narrowly wide and Jason Rogers replaced Doyle and Lavery the broke out of defence and his shot was scrambled away.

The home side made a late assault in a bid to save the game but despite pleas for a penalty after a skirmish in the box referee Damian Basketfield was having none of it and shortly after blew for time and a precious three points for the Hoops. Best performers for Celtic on the day were Haire, O’Hara,McCabe and Hutchinson with Hutchinson awarded McLeans Man of the Match for an inspirational display in the centre of defence,indeed the whole team lifted their performance level in the 2nd half and with the missing players due back manager Colin Malone has more options to choose from next week when the Hoops face early pacesetters Ards at Bangor Fuels Arena ko 3.00pm.