Goal of season from Sarah highlight of superb victory

Sarah McClure who scored a stunning goal on Saturday.
Sarah McClure who scored a stunning goal on Saturday.

Lurgan travelled to Belfast on Saturday for this eagerly awaited encounter with the league leaders Belfast Harlequins.

Harlequins have lead the league from week one and have been scoring goals for fun all season so Lurgan were in no doubts regarding the level of the task that faced them.

However, Lurgan have been in a rich vein of form themselves winning nine and drawing one of their ten league matches so far and were in no mood to be intimidated by their city rivals.

A tense, tight, defensive match was predicted and it just goes to show how wrong predictions can be. Instead the crowd were treated to one of the best displays of flowing, attacking, exciting hockey they had seen all season. With two regulars missing Coach Robbie McMinn drafted ever reliable Nicky Thompson into the back line and moved Amy Edwards into midfield and both had superb performances.

The quickness of ball through the midfield and the speed of transition to the forward line totally unsettled the Harlequins defence and had them at sixes and sevens for most of the match. Quins did win an early penalty corner but this was well defended by the Lurgan back-line. Lurgan hit back two minutes later and a quick ball through midfield was latched onto by Kathryn Edgar.

Racing forward she picked out striker Chloe McCann on the penalty spot in the circle and Chloe controlled the ball beautifully giving herself a little space to turn and fire an unstoppable shot past the Quins keeper. Two minutes later in the tenth minute, Emily McStea picked up a loose ball from just inside the Quins half and went on a scything run through the middle only to be closed down by the Quins keeper breaking off her line.

Lurgan should have increased their advantage one minute later but a missed strike in front of goal let the home side off the hook. Quins did try to respond but the Lurgan side were hunting in packs and never allowed their opponents any time in possession, closing them down as soon as they got the ball and then moving it quickly forward as they immediately went on the offensive.

Sarah McClure, who was running the show, almost treated the spectators to the goal of the season in the 20th minute when she weaved her way past three defenders only for her final shot to be pushed away by the keeper. One minute later Lurgan did manage to increase their advantage as Charlene Hull blasted her penalty corner shot into the net off a defenders stick.

Things got worse for Harlequins two minutes later when Sarah McClure did treat everyone to the goal of the season as she danced her way past four defenders and as the keeper went to ground, she calmly lifted the ball over her prone body and into the net. A piece of hockey magic from the most skilful attacking midfielder in the league. It was a shell-shocked league leaders who left the pitch at half-time 3-0 down and considerably lucky not to be two or three more.

Harlequins started the second half more positively and they did manage an early penalty corner but Suzie Taylor in goal blocked the strike and the ball was cleared.

Lurgan thought that they had increased their lead one minute later when a diving Jo-Anne Wilson swept the ball home from an Emily McStea cross only for the umpire to rule that the ball had gone over the backline before the cross came in.

Despite their healthy advantage coach McMinn kept the pace high, skilfully using his bench to maintain the speed of the attacks while resting others. The tireless running of Emily McStea paid dividends when the keeper managed to block another shot from her after a great run, but fellow striker Zoe Hawthorne reaped the rewards as she lifted the breaking ball over the keeper and into the roof of the net for a superb fourth goal for the visitors. To their credit Harlequins never gave up and although they did manage some dangerous opportunities, these were comfortably dealt with by a confident Lurgan defence with Kerrie Burns making some wonderful clearances across the back line and Charlene Hull who had a terrific game and never missed a tackle all day.

The home side did manage to penetrate the home defence from a penalty corner in the 62nd minute but it was only a consolation goal.

This was by far the performance of the season from a superb Lurgan side who have now emerged as genuine title contenders.