Classy Lurgan stun the champions

Lurgan College (red top) v Banbridge Academy. INLM0513-205
Lurgan College (red top) v Banbridge Academy. INLM0513-205

LURGAN Ladies put on arguably one of their greatest displays ever as they humbled the current Premier League champions in their own backyard with a four goal five star performance at the Dub last Saturday.

Lurgan were simply superb and Pegasus could not live with them on the day. Rarely do Pegasus concede one goal at home, so to have four put past them in the one match must be a new experience for them, however, it could have been even more embarrassing for the champions.

But for the intervention of a post, a couple of last ditch goal line clearances and some important saves from their keeper, Lurgan could have rattled up double their score. As early as the second minute Lurgan signalled their intention to take the match to Pegasus when Lucy McKee and Zoe Hawthorne linked up to provide Lucy with a shooting opportunity which was blocked by the Pegasus keeper. Pegasus responded with a break of their own but the final strike missed the target. Undaunted, Lurgan forced the home team on the defensive and another break on 10 minutes saw the ball flash inches from Chloe McCann’s stick on the goal line from a McKee cross. The Lurgan midfield of Sarah McClure, Carly Johnston and Bethany Barr were dominating the centre of the park, nullifying the obvious threat of a creative Pegasus midfield with their instinctive tackling, skilful stickwork and intelligent distribution.

Allied to this the incisive and imaginative running of the forward line was creating havoc in a usually composed Pegasus defence. The only worrying thing for Lurgan was, that despite creating several decent half chances , they still hadn’t manage to convert any of them.

As the half progressed Lurgan still continued to dominate possession and on 24 minutes they were rewarded with their first penalty corner of the match. Up stepped captain Charlene Hull and she hammered the first time strike against the backboard to give Lurgan the lead. Pegasus were stung into response and five minutes later they were awarded a penalty corner of their own. Vicky Parks in the Lurgan goal saved the initial strike and when the ball fell to a Pegasus forward she again pulled off an excellent stop to preserve Lurgan’s lead. With two minutes to go to half time Lurgan almost doubled their lead when Charlene Hull thumped the ball into the Pegasus circle and Bethany Barr deflected it beautifully goalwards only to see it cannon off a post and luckily for Pegasus, bounce away to safety.

Lurgan were expecting the typical Pegasus onslaught in the second half but it was they who started the better and put the home team on the backfoot right from the onset. An early Zoe Hawthorne shot was deflected wide by a defender and on 10 minutes Lurgan were awarded another penalty corner after skilful work by Lucy McKee in the Pegasus circle. Another Charlene Hull strike, despite not being hit as truly as she would like, finished up in the back of the Pegasus net and Lurgan had doubled their lead.

Although there was still 25 minutes to go, Pegasus were looking a worried team with no real answer to the intensity of Lurgan’s play. Lurgan were quicker to the ball , stronger in the challenge and more imaginative and creative going forward. Wing backs Serena Barr and Louise Murray were supporting the dominating Lurgan midfield and picking up any loose balls down their side, not allowing Pegasus an easy way out but constantly pinning them back in their own half. Anything that came through the middle was mopped up by centre-backs Charlene Hull and Hannah Grieve who hardly missed a tackle all day and whose distribution was superb. On 23 minutes Lurgan increased their lead with a well taken goal by Jo-Anne Wilson after good link up play between herself and Zoe Hawthorne.

Lurgan coach Gary Blythe had got his tactics spot on, alternating his forward line regularly throughout the match, keeping them fresh and applying relentless pressure to the Pegasus defence. Penny Joyce, returning after a lengthy absence, showed she is quickly returning to her best form with some skilful touches. With 10 minutes to go Pegasus were a beaten team and two minutes later Jo-Anne Wilson hammered the final nail in their coffin after a great rescue and pull back from the by-line Chloe McCann presented her with a shooting opportunity which she duly dispatched.

Although Pegasus did manage to score from a late penalty corner it was scant consolation for the beaten champions . The match finished with Lurgan still on the offensive and only a last gasp save from the Pegasus keeper prevented Zoe Hawthorne from getting on the scoresheet.

A memorable victory, a superb team performance and one which, not only secures their position of second in the league, but given their current form, also offers Lurgan as viable title contenders.