ULSTER ELKS 4 LURGAN 2
LURGAN crashed to their first defeat of 2013 with this disappointing display at Jordanstown on Saturday.
Lurgan were missing Hannah Grieve through injury and forward Zoe Hawthorne was also unavailable so it was always going to be a tough ask against a team who had already beaten them this season, but given their recent form Lurgan must have fancied themselves to come away with a result.
Coach Gary Blythe had to re-jink his defensive formation and utilise his forward-line in a different way but neither really clicked on the day. Lurgan started brightly enough but missed two decent opportunities in the opening five minutes and were later to rue these mistakes. The Elks on the other hand scored from their first real attack as the Lurgan defence was opened up far too easily. The Elks pressed forward to increase their advantage and Lurgan survived a penalty corner on 10 minutes. The Elks were looking dangerous every time they came forward while Lurgan were struggling to string three passes together. Too often when they did get possession the Lurgan players were guilty of holding on to the ball for too long and running into cul-de-sacs. In their defence there was very little constructive running off the ball to enable the player in possession to pick out a decent pass. On 16 minutes Lurgan were awarded a penalty corner but the shot was well saved by the Elks keeper. A Lurgan break on 21 minutes provided Lucy McKee with a shooting opportunity but her strike was again well saved by the Elks keeper.
With about six minutes to go to half time the game really turned in the Elks favour. Centre-back Charlene Hull was struck on the ankle by a fiercely struck ball and as she lay on the pitch the umpires allowed play to continue and as the ball had fallen kindly for the Elks forward she gratefully lifted it over a diving Vicky Parks to increase the Elks advantage.
Lurgan tried to regroup at the start of the second half but things were not going their way and a fiercely struck reverse-stick shot from Lucy McKee at a 6th minute penalty corner was superbly saved by the Elks keeper. Five minutes later she pulled off another great stop after Serena Barr had burst into the circle to create a shooting opportunity for herself. But the Elks always looked dangerous going forward and Vicky Parks was called upon to make a great stop of her own from a well struck shot five minutes later.
Lurgan tried their best to get back into the match but they never really got their game going and looked second best all over the pitch. It was no surprise when the Elks added a third 20 minutes into the second half but there did appear to be an element of luck with this one as the ball seemed to deflect off a Lurgan stick as it flew into the net. Lurgan had barely time to recover when they were administered the killer blow from probably the best goal of the match. The Elks were awarded a free just outside the Lurgan circle and before they had time to organise, the Elks forward raced into the circle and fired an unstoppable reverse-stick shot into the roof of the net.
To their credit Lurgan never gave up and in typical fashion they bombed forward in an attempt to salvage something from the game. With eight minutes remaining a Charlene Hull strike from a penalty corner was well saved but the ball was only pushed back to her and she raced forward and fired it into the net. Five minutes later Lucy McKee hammered home another penalty corner to reduce the deficit but it was all just a little too late and the Elks held on for a 4-2 win. Nevertheless Lurgan still cling on to top spot in the league and their title winning credentials will be tested at the Junior High this Saturday when they welcome Queens in what should be a thrilling table-top encounter.