BELFAST HARLEQUINS 1
LURGAN came away from Deramore with three hard-earned but extremely valuable points.
Quins find themselves at the wrong end of the table at this time in the season and are fighting to avoid a relegation play-off situation.
Given their predicament they came out strongly against Lurgan and forced the issue right from the off. Indeed only a superb reaction save from Lurgan keeper Victoria Parks prevented the visitors repeating last week’s horror start of going behind in the opening minute.
Lurgan did have one dangerous break early on when Sarah McClure waltzed past four Harlequins defenders into the Quins circle but she unselfishly tried to set up a colleague instead of taking on the shot herself and the chance was missed.
Harlequins still tried to force the pace and looked dangerous going forward but the Lurgan rearguard stood firm and Hannah Grieve, who had an outstanding match, was the pick of the players on the day.
Lurgan did have some promising attacks but some poor choices were made and the absence of a final killer pass left them with nothing to show for all their efforts.
Harlequins on the other hand were unlucky not to register on the scoreboard and only another superb save by Victoria Parks, with two minutes to go to half-time, prevented them from going into the break with a lead.
Harlequins began the second half as they did the first, on the offensive, and within two minutes their efforts were rewarded.
A quick break down the Lurgan left resulted in a square ball across the circle and their unmarked player in front of goal swept home to give them the lead.
This goal seemed to be the kick-start Lurgan needed as they suddenly upped their game and went in search of an equaliser.
There was more urgency and purpose about their play and at long last they began to string a few passes together.
A sweeping move four minutes later saw Natalie Barr turn just inside the circle and fire a reverse-stick shot just wide of the Quins goal.
Lurgan continued to pressurise the Quins defence and five minutes later they were rewarded with their first penalty corner of the match.
In a well rehearsed move Charlene Hull slipped the ball left to Sarah McClure who fired it goalwards for Zoe McNally to deflect past the keeper and into the net.
After this equaliser Lurgan were really in the ascendancy and it looked like only a matter of time before they took the lead.
Unfortunately they then proceeded to squander two gilt-edged chances to the relief of a bemused Harlequins defence.
Midway through the half Lurgan succeeded in taking the lead when Joanne Wilson finished off a good move involving Jill Edgar and Natalie Barr with an instinctive finish at the near post.
Harlequins were now looking a beaten side but that did not stop Lurgan wasting a couple more chances before Jill Edgar added a third for the visitors.
This was probably the most difficult chance Lurgan had but Jill managed to squeeze the ball home from an almost impossible angle after determined work from Joanne Wilson.
Lurgan pressed forward for the remainder of the match and despite being awarded two more penalty corners failed to add to their total as Harlequins defended doggedly.
Over the years Harlequins have proved to be one of Lurgan’s bogey teams and despite going behind today and despite wasting many good chances, they still came away with a win.
This was undoubtedly an impressive performance and shows how far this young team have come.
This victory lifts Lurgan to second place in the Premier League and guarantees them a place in The Irish Hockey League next season again.