Celtic now level at the top

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LURGAN Celtic took advantage of the non league activity of the teams above them last Saturday to move above Armagh and go level on points with Knockbreda after a 3-1 win over Killymoon Rangers at a bitterly cold Knockramer Park.

After last weeks win the management elected to make one change by starting with Stefan Campbell and Brendan Mackin going onto the bench alongside Conor McAnallen and Jonny McAreavey.

The Hoops started brighter,taking the game to their opponents with Raymond Fitzpatrick and Daniel Ryan linking up well in some early attacks which stretched the visitors defence. Campbell saw his header go straight to the keeper and it became a case of when the Hoops would open the scoring as the visitors could not keep the ball.

Because of the Celtic pressure Killymoon were badly stretched at times and only some wayward shooting by the home side kept the score level. On 20 minutes Fitzpatrick and Campbell combined to set up Ryan but he shot too close to the keeper and the ball was easily gathered by McElhatton in the Killymoon goal.

However, the pressure paid off as Celtic opened the scoring on 26 minutes when Ryan was put through and his pace took him away from the defence. As he rounded the keeper he was taken down and a penalty was awarded. With the visitors being reduced to 10 men as goalkeeper McElhatton was sent off central defender Purvis took over in goal as Niall Lavery stepped up to confidently slot the ball home from the spot

The home side then kept the pressure up giving the visitors no rest and increased the lead on 35 minutes when Fitzpatrick and Lavery forced a corner on the left and when Lavery sent in a dangerous inswinger Fitzpatrick headed towards goal, Purvis parried the ball away only for Shannon Drainey following up to smash the ball low into the net. Celtic should have increased the lead when Campbell went through but he took the ball to close to the keeper and the chance was lost while Aaron Haire went close with two efforts. The only respite for Killymoon came courtesy of a free kick which went wide in a one sided first half.

During the interval Paul Donegan was replaced by McAnallen after he twisted his ankle and Celtic further increased the lead when a shot deflected off a Killymoon defender for goal number three while shortly afterwards Lavery came off for Mackin.

The Hoops went completely off the boil and without Lavery who had been displaying the fine form of the last few games the midfield went into meltdown and started to be overrun by the Killymoon midfielders and at times it looked like Celtic were the side with a man short as they could not gain a foothold in the game which they had so comfortably dominated in the first half.

Ryan broke through but his effort cannoned away from the keeper and Killymoon went upfield to force two corners which were cleared. Killymoon reduced the arrears on 73 minutes when Loughran, who looked slightly offside, beat keeper Ciaran Fox at close range and this score gave them some hope.

Steven Boyd the made way for McAreavey to give him much needed game time and from a free kick Fox in the Celtic goal made a good save. The Hoops then went on the offensive and Ryan shot over and followed up with two efforts being saved by the stand-in keeper.

Towards the end of the game Fox was called into action again when a long rasping drive looked destined for the bottom left corner but the Hoops custodian made a brilliant save diving to his left to turn the ball away. Just prior to the final whistle Fitzpatrick went on a run down the left and cut inside to see a shot from 30 yards clip the base of the post and go wide with the referee blowing for time seconds later.