Despite being at home Lurgan would have been considered the underdogs in this Irish Senior Cup match against a team littered with internationals, including the current Irish captain, and who they had already lost to twice this season.
Already without Naomi Costley and Carly Johnston, Lurgan were dealt another blow with the withdrawal of Phoebe Preston due to illness just before the match was due to start.
Nevertheless the Lurgan players who took to the pitch can be justly proud of their performance. Indeed they started the more positive of the two sides and within the first minute Sarah McClure had opened the defence with a superb run into the Elks circle only for her shot from a tight angle to be deflected behind for a long corner.
Lurgan kept the pressure on and Pippa Best won a short corner for her side with a dangerous run into the circle. From the resultant penalty corner Sarah McClure’s shot on the reverse went just wide.
The Elks quickly reorganised and began to settle down putting together some slick passing moves. They were extremely fortunate to be awarded a penalty corner on the 6th minute. Susie Taylor in the Lurgan goal pulled off a great stop from an Elks strike and from her save the ball fell onto the knee and then the foot of the inrushing Elks forward.
Despite Lurgan’s protests at this award the umpire refused to change her mind and the Elks took full advantage blasting in a fierce strike which almost went through a Lurgan stick in its way into the net. An unfortunate way to go behind in such a manner but Lurgan didn’t panic and defended stubbornly against some determined Elks attacks.
The work rate across the whole team was superb, Louise Murray, Charlene Hull, Kerrie Burns and the recently returned Emma Quinn put in impressive performances at the back, Kathryn Edgar, Pippa Best, Alex Hurst and Sarah McClure fought like terriers in midfield not allowing their counterparts to settle on the ball and the relentless running up front of Julie Morrow, Chloe McCann and Jo-Anne Wilson was a tribute to their fitness and determination.
Towards the end of the half a frustrated Elks team upped the tempo in an attempt to increase their lead before the break but Susie Taylor pulled of several good stops to keep them at bay when they created room for a shooting opportunity.
Lurgan came out for the second half still only one goal down and with everything to play for but they were rocked back on their heels when the Elks doubled their lead with an unstoppable shot into the roof of their net from just inside the circle with only three minutes gone.
Play swung from end to end for the next 15 minutes with Lurgan trying to break through a well organised Elks defence from whatever possession they could snatch. The Elks always looked dangerous on the break but it was Lurgan who almost reduced the deficit on 18 minutes when the Elks keeper pulled off a good stop from a Chloe McCann shot after a determined run down the Lurgan right by Kerrie Burns. With only five minutes to go the Elks scored their third with a simple finish after some delightful approach play. Although they had lost the match the Lurgan team won great respect from their opponent’s coach who praised their application, intensity and skill in what was a hugely entertaining game.
Lurgan return to league action on Saturday with a home match against Ballymoney.