LURGAN Celtic progressed to the next round of the Mid-Ulster Cup with a routine 3-0 win over Intermediate A side Fivemiletown last Saturday.
The match kicked off in front of a small crowd and the atmosphere was low key compared to the previous home tie against Knockbreda with the visitors keeping things tight but the Hoops went on the offensive with young Toland showing up well down the right wing putting in some penetrating runs and delivering good crosses which tested the Fivemiletown defenders.
The visitors got a free kick which Ciaran Fox punched away and Aaron Haire, after taking possession swept a splendid 40 yard pass for Toland to chase after but the ball ran out of play. Donegan then made a fine interception and passed to Raymond Fitzpatrick who beat two men but his effort lacked power and the keeper saved easily.
The opener should have came when Fitzpatrick took control on the left and closed in on goal but he went too close and the keeper saved with his legs. With the match well into the first half Fivemiletown were growing in confidence having held the game scoreless despite some dangerous play from Toland, Haire and Fitzpatrick and they caused a few problems to the Hoops but the defence stood firm giving nothing away.
With half time approaching and a scoreless first half beckoning Celtic struck on 38 minutes after McEvoy put a firm headed clearance to Haire who slipped a pass to Fitzpatrick and he opened the scoring with a low effort. Just on the whistle the home side were awarded a free kick outside the penalty area and Niall Lavery sent it narrowly over with the keeper well beaten leaving the Hoops a goal to the good at half time.
Young Toland having made a fine debut was taken off as planned at the start of the second half by assistant manager Tony Creaney, standing in on the day for Ciaran O’Kane, and Mackin slotted into midfield with Celtic taking immediate control of proceedings completely dominating the whole of the second half by moving the ball around quickly and switching play from side to side and it was no surprise when they scored a second goal after good play down the left wing resulted in a cross being put over and the keeper got the slightest touch with his fingertips but it fell to Fitzpatrick who lashed home from 6 yards.
McCabe came on for O’Hare going to right back with C. McAnallen moving to midfield as the pressure continued and Fitzpatrick completed his hat-trick on 65 minutes after a sweeping move down the right ended with the striker guiding the ball into the net at the near post to put three goals between the teams and finish the scoring for the day.
Paul McAnallen then came on for Ryan Lawless as the Hoops ran down the clock although Fitzpatrick and Mackin combined well with Mackin’s shot being saved by the keeper at the second attempt and Conor McAnallen and Fitzpatrick played Lavery in but his shot went inches wide.
Just prior to the finish Mackin broke past two players and was taken down but the referee denied Celtic a strong penalty shout as he wasn’t 100% certain and without an official on the line to confer with played safe and waved play on. Right at the end the visitors forced a corner but Fox in the Hoops goal who had a quiet enough afternoon rose magnificently above everyone to claim the ball with time being called to end a comfortable enough win for Celtic and despite the fact that they were outplayed for a good part of the game Fivemiletown to their credit kept trying to play football without resorting to lofting high balls upfield and hoping for the best.
This win now sets up an away tie this Saturday against Loughgall and gives the Hoops a chance to avenge the recent Boxing Day defeat although Daniel Ryan will be away to San Marino with the regional International side and everyone at the club wishes him well. Also missing is Declan McVeigh joined by Aaron Haire who starts a two match suspension while it would be touch and go for Shannon Drainey to be recovered in time from his recent injury so the Hoops will be at a disadvantage going into the game.