ARMAGH 0 LURGAN 1
LURGAN beat Armagh for the second Saturday in a row in this re-arranged Premier League fixture at Ardmore.
Whilst the previous week’s victory was a relatively comfortable one, this by comparison was a tough struggle with Armagh pressing for much of the game and Lurgan defending resolutely and hitting them on the break.
It was obvious from the first whistle that Armagh were smarting after that defeat and they started in determined fashion to overturn that result.
Lurgan were put under pressure almost immediately and forced on to the back foot as wave after wave of Armagh attacks rained down on their goal.
The Lurgan defence battled hard to stem the flow and establish some semblance of control but it was proving difficult as too often the ball was carelessly given away through mis-placed passes or over-elaboration and the tide kept coming back at them.
Lurgan play much better when they move the ball quickly and use intelligent running to create space for each other but they were too often caught in possession and the passes were not finding their team-mates.
To their credit they worked extremely hard and as the half went on Armagh became increasingly frustrated that their superior possession was not reflected on the scoreboard.
With only three minutes left in the half Lurgan produced the only flowing move of quick passing hockey they had mustered in the match so far and it resulted in the only goal so far.
Sarah McClure started it off with a run and pass to Louise Murray on the right and she quickly picked out Natalie Barr on the edge of the circle. Before the Armagh defence could react, Natalie fired an inch perfect pass to Penny Joyce, who had taken up a great position at the far post, and when the ball came to her she gratefully slammed it home to give Lurgan the lead .
Lurgan started the second half in much better fashion forcing two penalty corners in the opening ten minutes but unfortunately both were cleared by the home defence.
Play swung from end to end as Armagh sought for an equaliser and Lurgan went in search of a second that would give them a little breathing space.
With fifteen minutes to go Armagh were awarded a penalty corner and everyone held their breath as the strike was goalbound but Naomi Costley in the Lurgan goal was up to the challenge and she saved superbly with her foot and her defence quickly swept it away to safety.
A close call but Lurgan also had their chances and a Charlene Hull strike from a Lurgan penalty corner minutes later flashed inches wide of the Armagh post.
In the end Lurgan held on for a slightly fortuitous victory but to be fair to them they had produced the only piece of real quality in the game in creating the goal.
In a hard fought slog special mention must go to fifteen year old Naomi Costley in the Lurgan goal who showed what a tremendous prospect she is pulling off some great stops, one in particular from Irish international Rachel Mulligan who must have thought she’d scored with a fierce reverse stick shot that Naomi calmly palmed away to safety and Bethany Barr who had a superb match, standing out with her speed,skill , tackling and precise passing .
This victory lifts Lurgan to a clear third in the Premier League and the next match away to second placed Ballymoney should be a real thriller.