Early jolt is overcome as Lurgan remain top

Emily McStay.
Emily McStay.

Lurgan continued their winning ways with this third league victory on the trot at home to North Down on Saturday.

It was the visitors who surprised the home side in the opening minutes, taking the game to them and winning two early penalty corners which the Lurgan defence did well to clear.

But after these early shocks, Lurgan took control of the game and for the rest of the match it was virtually one way traffic. Lurgan had defeated their opponents 5-0 in the Denman Ulster Shield a few weeks ago and the fact that the final score was so close was due to no small measure to the terrific performance of the North Down keeper.

Time after time she denied the Lurgan forwards as they pounded the North Down defence. Lurgan striker Jo-Anne Wilson, could easily have had a first half hat-trick only to be denied by the keeper on each occasion. The third save in particular was an unbelievable stop on a point blank strike after a great ball into the circle by Sarah McClure.

North Down almost broke through the Lurgan defence in the 17th minute but defender Phoebe Preston denied them with a great last minute covering tackle. It was the home side however who had the lion’s share of possession but couldn’t find a way past the visiting keeper despite four first half penalty corner awards.

Against the run of play North Down took the lead in the 39th minute from a quick break up field and some lax defensive work in the Lurgan circle.

Lurgan were stung into response and there was much more purpose and urgency about their play. Two minutes later Lurgan equalised and it was two of their senior players who finally opened up the North Down defence. Charlene Hull and Sarah McClure linked up outside the North Down circle. They swopped passes and Sarah set up Charlene with a beautiful measured pass for the captain to fire a lovely shot past the North Down keeper to put her side level.

Lurgan then pummelled the North Down defence for the next 15 minutes. Seven penalty corners in this period failed to add to the score line with Emma Quinn particularly unlucky to see a great attempt at a ball played back into the circle from a cleared penalty corner, rise off her stick but agonisingly just over the bar.

With five minutes to go Lurgan deservedly went in front and it was again from another penalty corner. On this occasion the ball was not cleared properly, broke to Emily McStea at the right hand post and she gleefully slammed it home to put her side in front.

The game played out with Lurgan still on the attack and at the final whistle saw themselves sitting proudly at the top of the Premier league.