Despite hitting the woodwork twice, Lurgan Celtic were undone by two quality goals by the Welders at Knockramer Park on Saturday.
With new signings Shea Conaty starting up front and Brendan Shannon in midfield the Hoops were looking forward to continuing in a rich vein of form, shown over recent weeks, against a strong Welders side.
Celtic looked lively for the opening 10 minutes but it was the visitors who went on and dominate the play in the first half. On 12 minutes Welders missed a glorious opportunity to take the lead when the striker shot wide from close range.
The deadlock was broken on 2o minutes when Michael McLelland produced a wonderful free kick into the top corner after a disputed decision from the referee judging Stephen Hutchinson’s tackle on the edge of the box to be a foul.
Celtic seemed to be second to every ball and were struggling playing against the blustery conditions with the Welders the slicker side in the opening half.
Hutchinson almost equalised just before the break, his looping header seemed to be net bound but it just dropped over to the groans from the home support. Celtic seemed content to go in one down at the interval but the last kick of the half produced a great goal from Welders full back Armstrong as his 25 yard drive, after Celtic’s defence failed to clear an attack, hit the underside of the crossbar and over the line with goalkeeper Conor McCorry having no chance.
Celtic came out in the second half with more determination to turn this tie around and within five minutes Shannon’s header from a Dale Malone cross hit the bar and on 55 minutes Barton’s cross from the left was met by Conaty who attempted to poke the ball in only for the Welders keeper to gather his effort.
This was much better from Lurgan Celtic with McVeigh and Shannon beginning to have a greater influence in the middle of the park.
Conaty was replaced on the hour mark by Devlin as Celtic seemed to be running out of time and with players pushing forward it left space for the Welders strike force and they had a few chances to increase their lead but wasted them.
With five minutes left Barton sent in a teasing cross which the keeper scrambled across to tip over the bar and after a goalmouth scramble a strike crashed off the Welders post to leave Celtic goalless at the final whistle.
Celtic were hit by two wonder strikes in the first half which they never recovered from. The Welders, a well drilled and hungrier side, deserved the win. Manager Malone has to be happy with the second half performance and will know more important matches await as Ards visit Knockramer on Saturday followed by Knockbreda in the last 16 of the Irish Cup.
The McLeans Bookmakers man of the match was Brendan Shannon.
The match ball was sponsored by Bingham Tyre Depot.