North Down 1 Lurgan Ladies 2
After a long lay-off from competitive hockey Lurgan Ladies got back to serious action with this first Premier league fixture of the season away to North Down at the Comber Leisure Centre on Saturday.
Having played fewer matches than all the teams around them a win was imperative to keep Lurgan within touching distance of runaway league leaders Belfast Harlequins.
Their cause wasn’t helped by the fact that they were missing two front line defenders as both Phoebe Preston and Amy Edwards were unavailable for this fixture.
Nicky Thompson was drafted into the squad and she didn’t disappoint with a solid defensive performance. Lurgan couldn’t have asked for a better start as they raced into an early lead. Midfielder Carly Johnston was the architect as she picked up a loose ball just inside the North Down half. As she moved forward, drawing defenders to her, she slipped a beautiful pass to fast breaking forward Jo-Anne Wilson. As the keeper advanced Jo-Anne squared a neat pass to fellow striker Emily McStea who fired into the empty net to put the away side in front.
Full of confidence Lurgan pushed forward and were causing North Down lots of problems with Carly Johnston in particular causing most of them when she was in possession.
Lurgan created a couple more of decent opportunities but failed to convert either of them and as the half progressed North Down grew in confidence and looked dangerous themselves on the break.
After 28 minutes Lurgan won their first penalty corner of the match after a great run from deep by Charlene Hull who linked up well with Sarah McClure. Unfortunately the routine broke down without Lurgan even getting in a strike on the North Down goal. They were punished for these missed opportunities when North Down converted their own first penalty corner on the half hour to bring the sides level.
They can’t say it wasn’t coming as they had weathered a couple of earlier dangerous breaks with Kerrie Burns to thank for a couple of clearances in front of her own posts.
Lurgan made another great start to the second half and regained the lead when Charlene Hull fired home from a second minute penalty corner. Lurgan dominated possession for the bulk of the second period with North Down rarely troubling the away defence and keeper Suzie Taylor hadn’t a shot on target to deal with in the whole of the half.
Despite so much possession Lurgan failed to penetrate a well organised North Down defence who frustrated them with a lot of players behind the ball and some neat skilful defensive work.
The inability of the away side to convert any of the three decent chances they did manage to create in this period meant the result was always on the edge for the rest of the match.
This win however maintains Lurgan’s great run of form and with games in hand coach Robbie McMinn will be looking to make a determined push for the title.