Lurgan put last week’s disappointing display behind them with this spirited performance against the same opposition in this 3rd round IHL match at the Junior High School on Saturday.
Ballymoney must have thought they were playing a different team as Lurgan came racing out of the blocks, contesting every ball, pressing higher up the pitch and not allowing the visitors any time to settle on the ball.
Both sides vied for early dominance but it was Lurgan who created the early scoring opportunities. Jo-Anne Wilson fired just wide in the 9th minute from a tight angle and two minutes later Chloe McCann saw her shot saved by the keeper after good approach play by Pippa Best who had a great match. Ballmoney came into the match and were dangerous on the break but the Lurgan backline of Emma Quinn, Louise Murray, Charlene Hull and Phoebe Preston contained them well.
With the first quarter almost on the hooter Ballymoney won a penalty corner but the resultant strike was well saved by Suzie Taylor in the Lurgan goal.
In the 26th minute Lurgan won their first penalty corner but this time it was the keeper who saved from Sarah McClure’s shot and her defence cleared the ball to safety.
Three minutes later Lurgan almost snatched the lead after a superb run by Sarah McClure brought her from just inside the half to the edge of their circle. She slipped a lovely pass to Julie Morrow whose first time strike was deflected wide by a defenders stick.
The battle for supremacy was fiercely fought in midfield with Alex Hurst, Carly Johnston and Kerrie Burns showing composure and control in the challenge and their crisp short passes were creating opportunities to release the dangerous Sarah McClure on some mazy runs at the opposition defence.
The third quarter opened at a frantic pace with Lurgan seizing the initiative and pressing in numbers for an early breakthrough. They won two penalty corners in the 5th and 7th minutes of this second half but couldn’t find the target as shots went wide.
Three minutes later Gemma McBride almost broke the deadlock but her well struck shot from a Sarah McClure cross was well saved by the keeper.
Lurgan were really tightening the screw and they got their just reward one minute later when a beautiful sweep by Jo-Anne Wilson on a ball fired into the circle by Charlene Hull flew wide of the keeper and into the net to put Lurgan in front.
Unfortunately their joy was short lived as Ballymoney had equalised inside a minute from a quick break up field from the restart as the home side allowed their concentration to slip.
Stung into response Lurgan went on the offensive and the influential McClure almost restored their lead with a superb strike on the reverse five minutes later only to see her shot smash off the post and away to safety.
With the sides tied at 1-1, it was all to play for in the final quarter. With the quarter only five minutes old Ballymoney won a penalty corner but their routine was disrupted by the speed of Jo Anne Wilson off the Lurgan line and the danger was cleared. Suzie Taylor made another good save from a shot as the visitors went in search of a winner. Pippa Best forced the keeper into a good stop with five minutes to go in the match as Lurgan pressed for a decider but neither side managed to breakthrough and an exciting encounter finished with honours even.
This week Lurgan travel to league leaders Ards for what should be a tasty encounter.
Lurgan Ladies Hockey Club would like to thank Glenavon FC for their generous sponsorship of this IHL match against Ballymoney.