Lurgan Celtic made a winning start to the new year with a hard fought 3-2 win over Glebe Rangers at Knockramer Park on Saturday.
With new signings Niall Lavery, Declan McVeigh and Conor Forker making their debuts it was a much changed side to the previous week and also with Conor Hagan to come in after an injury squad depth is definitely improving. With Forker and David Magee playing in advance of top scorer Raymond Fitzpatrick it was up to the captain to win possession in midfield and from the outset he won lots of balls in the air despite being up against much taller defenders.
In the fifth minute Fitzpatrick’s header found the lively Forker who turned and fired an early warning just over the bar.
It was the home side who were creating the better chances with the constant movement of Forker up front troubling the away defenders and the direct running of Magee giving Celtic a cutting edge. In the 15th minute the strong running of McVeigh resulted in a ball being played across the front of goal but somehow it evaded the strikers. Again it was Forker in the 22nd minute who had a volley blaze over but it was clear he would find the target soon and in the 28th minute he did from another volley after some fine build up play this time giving the keeper no chance to give Celtic a deserved advantage.
Shortly after the goal Magee was forced off through injury and was replaced by Campbell who went into midfield and Fitzpatrick then reverted to his more familiar role up front. Jason Rodgers in midfield was showing up well with some breaks from deep and in the 43rd minute his brilliant through ball found McVeigh but again his teasing cross just missed the forwards.
The second half began with Glebe pressing more and they had their best chance in the 52nd minute when they somehow managed to miss the target from close range. This miss proved costly when minutes later Forker broke down the left and held off a challenge to swing over a cross which was met by Fitzpatrick who powered home a header to the top corner despite the keeper’s best efforts to double the home sides advantage.
Having been moved to a more advanced role Fitzpatrick was causing all sorts of problems for the Glebe defence and had another glorious chance in the 59th minute but after beating two players his tame shot was easily saved. Glebe then reduced the score to the minimum in the 63rd minute when a free-kick from the right found their winger who was unmarked and he easily headed home. Celtic regained control in the 65th minute when Fitzptrick struck again. It was Rodgers who won the ball in midfield and he fed the big striker who side-stepped the tackles and rifled home a left foot strike from outside the box that gave the keeper no chance.
Having restored their two goal advantage Celtic should have increased their advantage as they had many long range efforts but none troubled the keeper and had to endure a nervous last few minutes when Glebe converted a penalty in the 88th minute after some holding in the area.
The home side remained in control to gain a well earned three points to move up one place .
Next up for the Hoops is the long journey to face Portstewart on Saturday.