LURGAN 1 BALLYMONEY 1
LURGAN Ladies put up a spirited display in this exciting one all draw with recent league champions Ballymoney at the Junior High School on Saturday.
The squad itself was reduced to just 12 players before the match as Bethany Barr, who has been in tremendous form recently, had to pull out with injury, but those who were left did themselves proud with a performance of skill, heart and determination.
Ballymoney were at their strongest, even including Irish international and American All-star Megan Frazer, in a panel of 15 including ex-Irish internationals.
Both teams started in determined fashion and opening encounters were keenly contested with neither side able to create a clearcut opportunity. Play swung from end to end with the Lurgan defence of Louise Murray, Hannah Grieve, Charlene Hull and Serena Barr snuffing out any attack and linking up with midfielders Carly Johnston, Sarah McClure and Shelley Sloan to set up attacks of their own.
As the half progressed Lurgan settled and their passing game was beginning to unsettle the Ballymoney defence. A sweeping move on 25 minutes opened up the defence and led to the opening goal of the match. Hannah Grieve found Serena Barr and she went on a superb run down the wing before linking up with Jo-Anne Wilson on the edge of the circle. Jo-Anne swept a great pass to Chloe McCann on the centre spot and Chloe smashed it under the keeper to give Lurgan the lead. Darting runs by Zoe Hawthorne and Lucy McKee had a usually composed Money defence making frantic challenges to clear the danger. Stung by the goal, Ballymoney went on the offensive and they looked like grabbing the equaliser before half-time but were denied by Lurgan keeper Vicky Parks who pulled off a couple of tremendous saves.
Ballymoney came out with all guns blazing in the second half but it was Lurgan who almost increased their lead from the first penalty corner of the match well won by Lucy McKee. The resultant shot by Hannah Grieve was saved by the keeper and scrambled clear. A second penalty corner for Lurgan ten minutes into the half came to nothing and this virtually signalled the end of Lurgan’s attacking contribution in the match. On 12 minutes Ballymoney were awarded their first penalty corner and Vicky Parks made a terrific save to preserve Lurgan’s lead.
However, the lead was not to last long as they scored from their next attempt two minutes later. Lurgan dropped deep and Ballymoney piled on the pressure. Lurgan defended stubbornly but in the final 16 minutes Ballymoney were awarded five more penalty corners, not all from offences inside the circle, which showed a little bit of indiscipline on Lurgan’s behalf.
To their credit Lurgan stood strong and Vicky Parks in the Lurgan goal proved unbeatable as aided by her defence they ground out a tremendous result which will give them great encouragement as they have let games slip away which they really should have taken something from. To defy a team of the calibre of Ballymoney the way they did shows how they are bonding and becoming stronger as a team. This was one of Lurgan’s most difficult matches of the year and in a superb team performance Serena Barr and Vicky Parks were outstanding.