The lads from Lurgan Town put the disappointment of their loss in the quarter final of the U16 Shield last week behind them with a spirited display full of energy and passion against a Hillsborough team that were runners up in the league last season.
After a heart to heart between the team during training this week, the lads adapted to the new style of play extremely well straight from the off and really put their opponents under pressure all round the pitch. They never gave Hillsborough a second on the ball who resorted to long direct balls which were lapped up by defensive pairing Daniel Johansen and Morgan Smyth.
Eventually their high press began to create space for them and after twelve minutes a great passage of play down the right involving Josh McClune and Jack Hogg saw Matthew Cupples released at the right side of the box and his cross was well met by Jamie McNeill who saw his shot fly just over.
A couple of minutes later Gary Judt forced a mistake and his pass found Jack Hogg at the edge of the box but his shot on the turn was well saved by the goalkeeper. Direct from the resulting goal kick Simon Wilson nearly released Ryan McGuckin with a through ball that was only just blocked at the last second.
Hillsborough then countered and Johansen found himself in a foot race with Boro’s centre forward and done well to shepherd the ball out, however the referee gave a corner and to rub salt in the wounds the corner was headed home by their centre back to give them an undeserved lead.
The lads reacted well and forced chances for Alex Woods and Jamie McNeill after crosses from Skipper Ryan Blacoe and Adam Leathem but the equaliser was proving elusive.
Half Time 0 v 1
Town started as they had ended and forced a corner after a minute and the Hillsborough keeper was forced into a great save from a Blacoe corner.
Then Lurgan got the reward for their play when another Blacoe corner was punched clear by the keeper but was volleyed back by Smyth on the edge of the box, Judt latched onto the ball and shot low against the inside of the post. The ball shot across the face of the goal but was held up in a puddle, Jack Hogg then dived in between two Hillsborough defenders to force the ball home.
It was all Town now and unbelievably three corners in a row resulted in Town hitting the bar on all three occasions. Firstly Hogg headed towards goal and his effort was headed up off the line and onto the bar for another corner, secondly the goalkeeper tipped the corner onto his bar and lastly Hogg again rose to head the ball against the bar and out.
Hillsborough were offering little in terms of attack and with Aaron Hancock adapting well to the new sweeper keeper role expected of him it looked like the only winner would be Town and they had the chances to to it. Hogg smashed a ball against the goalkeeper, Alex Woods shot just past the post, Simon Wilson volleyed just wide and Adam Leathem had a shot well saved also.
With only a minute left on the clock, Hillsborough’s centre forward found himself sprinting free on goal and a true marker of Lurgan’s new attitude was that last week when that happened no one sprinted back but this time Hancock forced the player wide and the delay he provided gave Smyth and Leathem time to press him and although he did get a shot away Simon Wilson was on hand to mop up the danger and ensure Town came away with a point which was the least they deserved.
Full Time 1 v 1
Lurgan’s management team were more than impressed with the way the team implemented their game plan and played with an energy and tempo that allowed them to stop Hillsborough winning the fixture for the first time in 4 years and proved unlucky not to come away with the win.
Town Team: A Hancock, M Cupples, R Blacoe (c), M Smyth, D Johansen, J McClune, G Judt, A Woods, J McNeill, J Hogg, R McGuckin. Subs: S Wilson, A Leathem