Lurgan Ladies 1 Elks 0
Back to back wins for Lurgan have been as rare as hen’s teeth this season but that is exactly what they achieved against high flying Ulster Elks at Lurgan Junior High School on Saturday.
The Elks are having a superb season having reached the Irish Senior Cup final and only losing one league match all season so to say that Lurgan were the underdogs going onto this encounter would be somewhat of an understatement. But Lurgan were buoyed by Wednesday’s great win and to write them off before a ball is hit tends to bring out the fighting side of them and so it proved on this occasion.
Elks started well and Lurgan weathered a couple of early attacks and a penalty corner as the visitors searched for an opening. Lurgan also looked comfortable early on and were moving the ball about well themselves.
A beautifully well worked move down the Lurgan right broke the deadlock for the home side in the 12th minute. Pippa Best picked up the ball just inside the Elks half and fed a superb ball down the line to Sarah McClure. Sarah kept wide, continuing her run and then slipped the ball across into the Elks circle where in rushing forward Chloe McCann clipped it past the Elks keeper at the near post to put the home side in front.
Lurgan had a setback two minutes later when they lost Alex Hurst, who has had a great season and was playing in what would be her last home game for the club, to a nasty ankle twist and was unable to return for the rest of the match.
Given that Serena and Bethany Barr were unavailable and Kerrie Burns was away on a school trip it was a tall ask for Lurgan and they were grateful for the return of Carly Johnston after her mid-week injury and Zoe Hawthorne, who put up a useful shift up front.
After this early setback Elks piled on the pressure and a couple of penalty corners in the 20th and 21st minutes were well dealt with by the Lurgan defence. Lurgan kept their composure and after a period of their own sustained pressure they won a penalty corner of their own in the 33rd minute but the Elks defence cleared the danger.
Early in the second half Sarah McClure and Pippa Best again linked up well to create a half chance for Chloe McCann but the Elks defence stood firm. Three minutes later Sarah and Jo-Anne Wilson combined well to create more problems for an already busy defence.
Time was running out for the Elks who needed to get something from the match if they were to have any chance of maintaining a challenge for the league title. They stepped up the urgency of their play and in the 60th minute they almost succeeded by opening up the Lurgan defence. A long ball played through the middle caught the Lurgan backline unawares but the retreating defence was saved by alert keeper Susie Taylor who raced off her line and kicked the ball to safety.
Elks kept up the pressure and a great 66th minute penalty corner opportunity for them was thwarted by a superb piece of defence by Louise Murray who raced off her line, robbed the Elks attacker and fired the ball up field. For the last few minutes Lurgan regained possession and control and were able to see the game out for an unexpected but fully deserved victory.