LURGAN 2 ARMAGH 0
LURGAN’S relentless climb up the Premier League table continued with this comfortable win over local rivals Armagh at the Junior High School on Saturday.
In what is usually a difficult fixture, Lurgan were rarely in trouble against the Ulster Shield finalists and the margin of victory does not truly reflect the level of superiority the home side had in this match.
Lurgan took the game by the scruff of the neck right from the start and put real pressure on the Armagh defence in the opening minutes.
Quick thinking from Carly Johnston on six minutes saw her burst into the circle from her own quickly taken free and flash a shot just wide of the Armagh posts.
The warning signs were there for Armagh and four minutes later Sarah McClure made them pay when she jinked her way into the circle and although an Armagh stick got a touch on it, it was not enough to prevent her well struck shot finding the corner of the net to give Lurgan the lead.
Lurgan’s strong midfield of Natalie Barr, Carly Johnston and Sarah McClure were running the show, linking up well with the front three of Joanne Wilson, Bethany Barr and Zoe McNally to open up the Armagh defence.
A darting run into the circle by Zoe McNally on 13 minutes created havoc in the visitors defence but luckily for them the ball was deflected to safety.
A penalty corner for Lurgan on 18 minutes was well saved by the Armagh keeper and swept clear by a relieved defence.
They were not so fortunate when Lurgan were awarded their next penalty seven minutes later.
Armagh keeper Rhiannon McNally pulled off two superb saves, first from Charlene Hull’s initial strike and then from a follow up one, but her defence failed to clear the ball and Bethany Barr seized possession and slipped the ball beautifully to her left for Charlene Hull to thump against the backboard.
The whistle went for half-time with Lurgan still on the offensive and Armagh yet to record a strike on goal.
A change in personnel at half-time allowed Armagh to come into the game a little more in the second half but the Lurgan defence of Louise Murray, Hannah Grieve, Charlene Hull, Sandra Collen and Serena Barr were never unduly troubled, restricting them to just one shot on target in the whole match and this was well saved by Vicky Parks in the Lurgan goal.
Lurgan pressed forward most of the second half and a great run and pass across the circle by Carly Johnston created an opportunity for Jill Edgar but her well struck reverse stick shot went just wide of the Armagh post.
Hannah Grieve thought she had added a third for Lurgan with ten minutes to go but the umpire ruled it out for a prior infringement.
Nevertheless Lurgan kept pressing forwar, taunting the Armagh defence , and Zoe McNally, who had a great game, was a particular thorn in their side all afternoon.
This win lifted Lurgan to fourth in the Premier League table just one point behind the Ulster Elks but with three games in hand.
Since their opening day defeat to Pegasus, Lurgan have won five and drawn one of their next six matches.
It is an impressive run indeed and one that keeps them on target for a top four spot and qualification for the Irish Hockey League next season again.