Defence key to securing first win of the campaign

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Lurgan came out on top of this very competitive premier league match with Belfast Harlequins at the Junior High school on Saturday and in doing so registered their first win of the campaign.

Quins have made a good start to the season and are a well organised outfit so Lurgan knew securing a win in this fixture was not going to be easy.

Both sides made good starts knocking the ball about confidently but Lurgan struck the first blow in the tenth minute from a penalty corner well won by a good break by Alex Hurst into the opponents circle. The initial strike was prevented from entering the goal by a defenders foot and although Lurgan fired home from close range the umpires had already signalled for a penalty stroke.

Kathryn Edgar stepped forward and her confident shot flew into the net to give her side the lead. Quins were stung into response and opened up the Lurgan defence with a well worked move but they were blown up for a back of stick offence before their forward managed to squeeze the ball in at the post.

Lurgan breathed a sigh of relief and went on the offensive themselves. Sarah McClure was unlucky with a superb run and reverse stick shot which was palmed clear by the Quins keeper.

Another quick attack by Quins on 24 minutes resulted in them being awarded their first penalty corner of the match which the Lurgan defence failed to clear and their forward hammered home the rebound to draw the side level.

There was little between these two sides and both tried to impose themselves on the other coming up to half time. Attack and counter attack was the order of the day and a determined break by striker Jo-Anne Wilson on the 33rd minute resulted in Lurgan being awarded their second penalty corner of the match. The move initially seemed to have broken down but the ball broke to Charlene Hull and she fired a fierce shot through the keeper’s legs to put the home side back in front. A return of two goals from two penalty corners was in stark contrast to what happened against Portadown in last week’s match when Lurgan had failed to register from their first ten.

Given the state of this match, the next goal was going to be hugely important and Lurgan struck early in the second half to give themselves a terrific chance of registering a win.

A switch move on a 37th minute penalty corner saw Sarah McClure fire goal wards and her strike clipped off a defenders stick into the net to open up a two goal gap for the home side. Lurgan really should have pushed on from this but they struggled to find consistency in their play and the policy of making multiple substitutions clearly did not help in this respect.

Too often players appeared to be just getting into the game and finding their form only to find themselves on the bench wondering why the changes were made.

These tactics allowed Quins to come more into the game and Lurgan rode their luck at times as the Belfast side were awarded three more penalty corners in the second half but fortunately for Lurgan they failed to score from any of them.

That Lurgan held out was also due in no small part to some great defensive work from Louise Murray, Phoebe Preston, Kerrie Burns and Charlene Hull who had a terrific match. Alex Hurst and Kathryn Edgar worked tirelessly in midfield aided by Pippa Best and Gemma McBride.

Lurgan were relying on some individual brilliance to put the opposition under pressure and Sarah McClure provided that on 46 minutes with a quickly taken free and run into the Quins circle. Her reverse pass just evaded the inrushing stick of Julie Morrow as she strived to nick it home. The selfless running of Jo-Anne Wilson and Chloe McCann up top kept the Quins defence alert and helped to alleviate the pressure on the rest of their team. Phoebe Preston did tremendous work in the 53rd minute to deflect a goal bound shot from a Quins penalty corner wide of Susie Taylor’s goal.

In the end Lurgan held out for a valuable three points but a tactical re-think might be the order of the day if they are to bring a greater level of consistency into their performances for the rest of the season.