Lurgan can feel extremely hard done by as a controversial umpiring decision after the final whistle robbed them of what would have been a deserved point after a battling comeback against Randalstown at the Antrim Forum on Saturday.
Randalstown made a terrific start as they caught Lurgan napping in the second minute when their Irish International Wilson raced into the circle and slammed the ball into the Lurgan goal giving goalkeeper Costley no chance.
Credit to Lurgan they battled back, got themselves organised and started to put some pressure on the Town defence. A Lurgan penalty corner saw a Sarah McClure strike saved by the keeper and although Sarah was first to react to the rebound her reverse-stick follow up shot flew over the bar.
Randalstown were always dangerous in possession and on the break. Their quick passing and intelligent running off the ball were in contrast to Lurgan’s sloppy passing and failure to control possession for any length of time. A Town penalty corner was well charged down by Jo-Anne Wilson as she disrupted their initial strike to clear the danger.
Lurgan hit back in the 15th minute when an Alex Hurst strike was deflected and looped over the keeper to level the scores. Building in confidence Lurgan pushed forward but they had keeper Naomi Costley to thank for a good stop from a 22nd minute Town penalty corner strike. Lurgan hit back and must have been disappointed not to take the lead from some decent scoring opportunities.
A Charlene Hull strike from a 24th minute penalty corner was well saved by the Town keeper and the rebound cleared by her defence. Two minutes later Jo-Anne Wilson hit the post with a reverse strike and three minutes after that another penalty corner shot was stopped on the line and cleared to safety. There was still time for Naomi Costley to pull off another good stop just before half time.
Lurgan started the second half well and were left to rue another spate of scoring opportunities which they failed to convert. A Lurgan penalty corner move broke down in the 40th minute and a minute later Pippa Best fired wide from. Serena Barr, home from America for the holiday period, had a tremendous game and she set up sister Natalie two minutes later but again the resulting shot went wide.
On 48 minutes Town caught Lurgan napping again with a quick break up field and when the ball was played into the circle the Lurgan defence failed to deal with it and the forward finished confidently.
Determined pressure from Lurgan almost brought them an equaliser with 10 minutes to go. Good running down the right by Kerrie Burns saw the ball dragged along the Town back line and then pulled back for the rushing forwards. Three shots in quick succession were fired on the Town goal but each time a defenders stick or the keeper’s pads got in the way and unbelievably the ball was cleared to safety.
With three minutes to go Lurgan got their just reward when Natalie Barr was on hand to fire home the rebound after the keeper had pushed out another Lurgan strike.
With seconds remaining Town went on the offensive and were awarded a penalty corner which was cleared by the Lurgan defence. When the final whistle sounded Lurgan thought that was that but the umpires conferred and controversially agreed another set piece which Town converted. Despite the protests of the Lurgan management and coaching staff the goal was allowed to stand and an exciting game of hockey had finished on an unsavoury note.