ANOTHER three points on the road keeps Lurgan Celtic neck and neck with Knockbreda and two points clear of Armagh City at the top of the table.
Defender Paul Donegan returned after missing the Radcliffe Cup semi-final against Warrenpoint due to ineligibility with Conor McAnallen moving to midfield replacing the unavailable Brendan Mackin and Jonny McAreavey slotting in at left back with Steven Boyd going to the right to replace Declan McVeigh who had a groin strain and was on the bench.
Just prior to the kick off a minutes silence was held in memory of Andrew (Shunney) Moore of Moyola who tragically passed away last week at the age of 33.
The game got underway with the home side making an early charge at the Celtic defence and they gained a free kick on the edge of the penalty area in a dangerous position but it was hit straight at Ciaran Fox who promptly despatched the ball downfield where Niall Lavery hit a great pass through the defence finding Aaron Haire who cut down the left and from 15 yards out curled a low left foot shot into the far corner to put Celtic ahead with only 45 seconds on the clock.
The Hoops then went on the offensive and forced two corners and Daniel Ryan had a point blank effort well saved by Moyola’s keeper.
The home side tried to prompt some attacks of their own but Donaghy and Shannon Drainey had the centre sewn up and Boyd and McAreavey on the flanks were alert to any danger and gave nothing away. The Celtic midfield didn’t impose themselves on the game as well as they normally do and Moyola had plenty of the ball but not in the areas where real damage could be done. Ryan’s running was stretching the home defence and after a good bit of interplay he was unlucky to see a left foot shot beat the keeper and rebound off the inside of the post and into the relieved net minders arms. Haire then forced a corner which saw Raymond Fitzpatrick get in a header but there wasn’t enough power to trouble the keeper and the opening half ended with no further score.
Moyola started the second period in more determined fashion and put Celtic under pressure with a series of attacks but keeper Fox in the Hoops goal had no direct shots to save. By this stage it was noticeable that some of the Hoops players were flagging, probably due to the efforts of the midweek game with Warrenpoint which was played at a very high tempo and with only a goal in the game it didn’t make comfortable viewing for the travelling support.
Celtic started to get a lot of the ball but the normal spark was missing although on one break Fitzpatrick blazed well over. With 20 minutes left Drainey, who had taken a knock earlier in the half, was subbed and replaced by Conway with McAnallen reverting to central defence and almost immediately they started putting some promising moves together. With young Conway prompting and probing in the midfield they started getting a grip on proceedings and had a goalbound effort cleared off the line. The pressure told on 74 minutes when a second goal came. The ball was played down the left and Ryan took possession to drive through on goal, he cut in and let fly with a well hit effort low into the net putting the Hoops 2-0 ahead.
Shortly afterwards Boyd fed Fitzpatrick who turned and shot wide. McKavanagh and McCabe then came on for Fitzpatrick and Lavery and the Hoops safely saw the game through to the end to of what was a comfortable enough win in the end but there is no doubt the substitution with Conway coming on and McAnallen looking much more comfortable in the heart of defence had an influence on the performance produced in the last third of the game.