Lurgan Celtic continued their impressive away form this season with a hard fought 2-0 win at Sport and Leisure on Saturday.
Manager Colin Malone made three changes from last weeks win at Wakehurst with Daniel Ryan returning after suspension Chris Lavery and Caolan Campbell back in the starting eleven.
After the previous nights heavy deluge of rain the Glen Road pitch made the going heavy for both teams and chances were minimal in the early stages. Hoops keeper Michael Goff was the busier making decent saves from two Leisure free kicks and midway through the first half after slack defending was called on again making a fine tip over from a shot following a long throw in.
The Hoops could not get their normal passing game together on the tight compact pitch as the home team, playing with the aid of a strong wind, pumped high balls and long throws at the Celtic defence with every opportunity.
However it was Celtic who made the breakthrough a minute before half time when they were awarded a free kick 25 yards out on the left hand side and Dale Malone sent in a superb ball deep into the penalty box where Jonny McCarron rose highest to send a looping header over the stranded home keeper and into the net putting the Hoops a goal to the good at half time.
After the break the game began to open up more with both teams creating chances and in one attack Ryan was pulled back when going through on goal but the referee waved play and on ignoring protests from the Celtic players.
On 56 minutes another Leisure long through caused problems for the Hoops defence but the ball was blasted over the Celtic bar while at the other end a super Dale Malone effort went just wide of the home post. As the latter stages approached the home team trying to salvage the game began to apply serious pressure and in the 75th minute Goff made a fine save from a goalmouth scramble as the ball looked destined for the net although in general the Hoops backline of Declan McVeigh, John Cochrane, McCarron and Campbell were excellent and coped admirably with the home attacks.
Niall Lavery came on to replace Chris Lavery in the latter stages and with two minutes to go he sent a long clearance upfield to Ryan and the Celtic striker turned the only defender and raced in to evade the keeper and slot the ball home putting the game beyond Sport and Leisure and more importantly extending their lead over their opponents to five points in the league placings.
This was a hard fought for Celtic at a venue where over the years they have struggled to achieve favourable results and should set them up for this weeks home tie against Loughall in the quarter final of the Radcliffe Cup and fans please note the kick-off is 2.00pm. This was a different type of display from the Hoops against a big strong side but they stood up well and refused to let themselves be physically dominated in what was a tough hard contest and most teams won’t relish a trip to play here. The McLeans man of the Match was awarded to John Cochrane for his sterling display in the heart of the defence.