CIARAN O’Kane is hoping lessons from the past can help Lurgan Celtic avoid an end-of-season slump in IFA Championship 2.
Celtic dropped points to Chimney Corner, Portstewart, PSNI and Killymoon Rangers around this period in last season’s schedule - a string of results O’Kane considers decisive in the club missing out on promotion.
Saturday’s single-goal success - thanks to a Raymond Fitzpatrick penalty kick - helped to maintain this season’s charge up the standings at the expense of Moyola Park, with O’Kane keen to maintain the push.
“I can certainly see signs that the players have moved on from last season and managed to learn from any mistakes made in the past,” said O’Kane, the Lurgan Celtic boss. “I do feel those dropped points cost us promotion in the end but there is a real sense of hunger this season and we will need to fight for points in very fixture.
“Tony Creaney was in charge last weekend as other commitments kept me away from the game but I know from our conversations since the match how the boys managed to dig deep for the win.
“Niall Lavery has now missed two consecutive penalty kicks but that is coming off a run of six or seven without any problem.
“An example of the character in the side came from Raymond stepping up to take the pressure penalty and character was the main word on Saturday.
“It is all about staying in the hunt for that final push, with results the only important aspect now.”
Celtic pushed hard from the start in search of a third successive three-point tally.
An early opportunity arrived on five minutes but Niall Lavery failed to find the net from the penalty spot for the second successive Saturday, with his effort bouncing off the crossbar.
Dee McPartland stepped in at left-back alongside Shannon Drainey, Ciaran McEvoy and Declan McVeigh as the Celtic backline battled to protect the clean sheet.
Celtic settled thanks to clever attacking play by Aaron Haire, Lavery, Fitzpatrick and McVeigh but first-half pressure failed to result in any reward.
Haire tested the Moyola Park goalkeeper with a second-half shot then connected to Lavery’s cross but the effort dropped narrowly wide of the mark.
Fitzpatrick’s drive dropped the wrong side of the upright and Lavery had a goal directly from a corner-kick chalked off during this sustained pressure.
The decisive moment arrived when a foul on Ryan presented Celtic with a second spot-kick and Fitzpatrick stepped up to handle the responsibility and deceive the goalkeeper.
Fitzpatrick squandered opportunities to wrap up his hat-trick with two chances inside a matter of moments
Celtic visit Chimney Corner tomorrow (Saturday) before playing host to Sport and Leisure Swifts on Tuesday from 7 o’clock.