Drama as Lurgan rally from three down to win


IN one of the most exciting games ever seen in the IHL Lurgan staged a sensational comeback to defeat Ballymoney at the Junior High School last Saturday.

It all began so horribly for the home side as they conceded inside the first two minutes. The initial strike from an early penalty corner award to Ballymoney was miss-hit but the ball bobbling in the circle was deflected into the Lurgan goal by a Money forward.

Lurgan put this initial setback behind them and began to play their natural passing game, building attacks and putting the Ballymoney defence under pressure. Their reward was two penalty corners on 5 and 15 minutes which were both saved by the keeper and cleared by their defence. On 16 minutes Ballymoney doubled their lead with a well worked penalty corner routine. The hooter went for the end of the first period with Lurgan two down.

The second period up to half time was fairly evenly contested but Lurgan just shaded it on possession and pressure with Lucy McKee having a reverse strike palmed clear by the keeper and Bethany Barr’s 21st minute shot at Lurgan’s only penalty corner of the period, saved.

The situation got even worse for Lurgan in the third period when on 47 minutes Lurgan lost possession just outside their own circle and the Ballymoney forward raced into the circle and planted the ball wide of the diving Vicky Parks in the Lurgan goal.

Three nil down with only 23 minutes to go and Lurgan had a mountain to climb. In typical battling fashion, Lurgan went on the attack and the response was almost instantaneous. Lucy McKee went on a lovely run down the left wing and her cross into the circle was met with a perfect reverse-strike shot by Penny Joyce who fired the ball high into the Ballymoney net. Three minutes later Lucy McKee reduced the deficit even further with a drag-flick from a penalty corner and there was just the hint that something very special might be on the cards.

The third period finished with Lurgan on the attack in search of an equaliser and Ballymoney defending furiously.

Lurgan levelled matters on the hour mark when Jo-Anne Wilson scored on the reverse after good approach play by McKee and Bethany Barr. Lurgan’s tails were up and Ballymoney were on the back foot as wave after wave of attack rained down on them. Louise Murray, Charlene Hull, Shelley Sloan and Serena Barr had everything tied up at the back and Sarah McClure, Bethany Barr and Lucy McKee were controlling the middle of the park.

Youngsters Alex Hurst and Pippa Best were relishing their first season in the IHL and putting in impressive performances as coach Blythe was able to ring the changes in this demanding format. In the 62nd minute Lurgan finally got their noses in front when Jo-Anne Wilson turned provider as she picked out a beautiful reverse pass to fellow striker Chloe McCann who fired home at the far post. Lurgan completed the scoring in the 65th minute when the ball broke to Lucy McKee in a goalmouth scramble and she rifled it home to cap a remarkable come-back.

Lurgan coach Gary Blythe said after the match, “I am so proud of the girls. They didn’t give up and really dug deep. It was a tremendous effort.”

Lurgan squad: Vicky Parks, Shelley Sloan, Louise Murray, Charlene Hull capt, Serena Barr, Bethany Barr, Sarah McClure, Jo-Anne Wilson, Lucy McKee, Penny Joyce, Alex Hurst, Pippa Best.