Lurgan hoping for sense to be restored in home game with Holywood

Just like in the rest of NCU Section One, it has been a curious beginning to the season at Pollock Park.

Lurgan started the campaign as one of the favourites for promotion back to the Premier League but instead they suffered a surprise opening-day setback at Derriaghy.

When Cliftonville’s professional inspired them to a mammoth 286 batting first a week later, it looked like Bruce Topping’s team could on the brink of a second successive defeat.

However, Stephen Johnston, the opening batsman, smashed 132 and with Stephen Chambers and Neil Anderson making more than handy contributions, Lurgan pulled off one of their great run chases.

Topping said: “The first week was a bit of a shock losing to Derriaghy. They were a very well organised team and played well, but having said that we had our opportunities but dropped a few vital catches and played a few poor shots.

“In the second game the Cliftonville professional was as good as anyone I’ve seen. He had a vast array of strokes and put the ball where he wanted to. We didn’t bowl that badly.

“Stephen Johnston was then fantastic from ball one. He struck the ball well and he is a very good player. Stephen Chambers has started the season exceptionally well with three fifties in three innings and Neil Anderson was a big plus, coming in at the end in the bad light and the rain with 40 not out.”

Lurgan host Holywood at Pollock Park on Saturday with Topping knowing that two wins from two will sound an awful lot better than one from three.

Topping has welcomed the return of Marvin van Niekirk from South Africa and he will play alonside Cameron Grieve, who replaces the unavailable Peter Maxwell.

“I don’t think you will see four clubs pulling away like you did last season,” said Topping. “I think we will be up there with Derriaghy, who impressed me and you’d expect Downpatrick to be there even if they’ve had a strange start to the season. Woodvale are the same, though they’ve lost a couple of key players.

“Carrickfergus have recruited a lot of players and many people will expect them to go up. But they’ve already had a setback. Anyone can beat anyone in this league.”