Much closer this time around

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LURGAN must have been confident going into this Premier League fixture having beaten the same opposition seven nil in an Ulster Shield encounter a few weeks ago at the same venue, but Portadown had obviously learned a lot since then and put up much sterner resistance this time.

Things could not have looked brighter for Lurgan as they stormed into a two goal lead in the opening eight minutes. Charlene Hull drilled home a penalty corner on four minutes and four minutes later it was 2-0 as Jo-Anne Wilson swept home the rebound from a Hannah Grieve strike from the next penalty corner that was initially saved by Ports keeper Zoe Jackson.

Lurgan continued to press home their advantage but failed to register a score from two more penalty corners in the next ten minutes. Portadown were proving a tough nut to crack as they proceeded to defend in numbers getting lots of players behind the ball and crowding out the Lurgan forwards giving them no room to operate. A lot of mis-placed passes by the visitors didn’t help their cause and Portadown almost benefitted when they broke forward on 24 minutes and only an excellent save from Vicky Parks in the Lurgan goal prevented the home side from reducing the deficit.

Lurgan’s frustration at their inability to increase their lead was becoming more obvious as passes went astray and players tended to hold on to the ball too long running into cul-de sacs as they were crowded out by a hard working Portadown defence.

The second half started in the same vein as the first with Lurgan pressing forward in an attempt to add to their advantage and they were unlucky on a couple of occasions as Jo-Anne Wilson shot just wide and three minutes later Lucy McKee’s reverse stick shot flew past the post. Three Lurgan penalty corners in succession were defended and cleared by Portadown and a fourth two minutes later just evaded Sarah McClure’s stick at the back post from a well rehearsed move. A third goal seemed inevitable and it did eventually come 15 minutes into the half thanks to the vision of Hannah Grieve. She spotted Zoe Hawthorne unmarked and found her with an inch perfect 30 yard pass which Zoe controlled, rounded the keeper, and slotted home from a tight angle. Ten minutes later Lurgan nearly added a fourth when Lucy McKee broke into the Portadown circle only to be thwarted by keeper Zoe Jackson who had a great match.

Despite being under the cosh for long periods in this match Portadown managed to create a few opportunities of their own and were particularly unlucky themselves near the end when their centre forward fired in a great shot only to see it crash off the Lurgan post and bounce to safety.

In the end it was a comfortable if somewhat frustrating victory for Lurgan who will have to up their game if they are to get anything from some more testing encounters ahead.