Lurgan Celtic put a severe dent in H&W Welders’ title hopes with a superb performance at Tillysburn Park on Saturday.
In the opening spell Celtic began to look a real threat every time the attacked and took the lead on 12 minutes from a corner, Dale Malone sent in a vicious kick and it landed at the feet of Brendan Shannon who had his effort repelled but he followed up quickest to smash home from four yards putting Celtic in the driving seat.
The Hoops applied serious pressure and forced several corners and free kicks as Malone caused problems with varied and strong deliveries as an element of panic spread throughout the defence.
Josh Barton was also proving troublesome with clever running and he was crudely chopped down but was to resume after lengthy treatment. From the free kick awarded Malone delivered a great ball to Raymond Fitzpatrick who headed down for Shea Conaty to smash home from close range.
Barton nearly got on the scoresheet when he fastened unto a loose ball and although Michael Dougherty in the home goal made a clearance with his feet and Barton hit the base of the upright with the rebound.
Near the break Fitzpatrick was booked for a deliberate hand ball and this rules him out of the Bangor game. Celtic were doing all the pressing right up to the break and on the half time whistle the home side were relieved not to be going in four goals behind such was the Hoops ascendancy.
Barton was withdrawn at the interval and replaced by Sean Devlin and with the Welders intent on making a breakthrough Shannon made sure the Celtic midfield was up for any attempt to dominate as the home side were intent on clawing back something from the game but by then got little change out of Daniel Wilson, John Cochrane, Hutchinson and the dynamic Adam Rodgers.
Aaron Haire was winning his duel with Dan McMurry at the centre of the Welders defence forcing him into making hasty passes when he was being closed down by the Hoops attacker.
The home side did breach the Hoops defenders a couple of times but keeper Conor McCorry had only one save to make with the Welders wary of the Celtic attackers when they broke upfield.
Five minutes from time a great pass out of defence resulted in Haire breaking upfield with two defenders trailing in his wake and as he bore down on goal hit a terrific drive which looked destined for the net but Dougherty pulled off a sensational save turning the ball away for a corner at the right hand post
After this the Hoops safely played out the game for a well deserved victory.
This was a good all round team performance but the contribution of Dale Malone with his deadly set plays resulted in him being made McLeans Bookmakers Man of the Match and not many sides go to Tillysburn and turn the home side over in such emphatic fashion.
Everyone then hit the Celtic Club that night for a successful and well attended Night at the Races and a special thanks to the sponsors who helped make the event a success.
All attention now turns to this Saturday’s Irish Cup quarter final against Portadown at Shamrock Park .