Lurgan Town’s winning streak came to an end against league favourites Shankill FC but the scoreline didn’t reflect the hard work the lads put in especially during the second half.
Town faced two late withdrawals prior to the match and their luck took another turn for the worse when energetic playmaker Alex Woods pulled up during the warm up and although he tried to continue he was forced to come off at half time along with winger Jamie McNeill who had been injured after a nasty fall.
Even though it was Town’s first late kick off of the season the lads were caught napping in the opening minute when they allowed a free header from four yards out and the tall Shankill centre half powered in his header to open the scoring.
Lurgan, who are trying to develop their counter attack play, were difficult to break down after and were easily defending Shankill’s tactic of cross field passes but as they were behind they had to open out and press higher up the pitch.
After a midfield tussle the Shankill centre midfielder played a long high ball out to the right winger who was standing about five yards offside but the referee saw different and allowed the play to continue. With such a start on the defence he strode towards goal and although the first shot was blocked well it broke to a supporting attacker who tucked the ball into the corner to double Shankill’s lead.
Town kept pressing and forced several corners in quick succession but the delivery of them needed to be better and they failed to capitalise when they were on top. They did go as close as you can when Simon Wilson fired a low shot into the bottom corner and it smacked off the inside of the post and flashed to safety.
Then just before the half Town forced another corner, it dropped into the penalty area where Shankill blocked fizzing effort from Jamie McNeill that was to be his last real action. Unfortunately for Town it wasn’t the last action of the half when from another corner Shankill cleared to the edge of the box where a missed tackle allowed Shankill’s impressive midfielder to sprint forward and another missed tackle in midfield resulted in a through ball to the left winger who got to the edge of the box, cut inside onto his favoured right foot and smashed a shot high into the net past Hancock.
Half Time 0 v 3
Town’s team had harsh words with each other at half time and demanded they matched the physicality of their opponents as well as sticking to their style of play. The second half saw a different Town team and the enforced changes saw Da Silva and McClune come on with good effect.
Town began to string lots of quick passing moves together and were limiting Shankill to cross field balls or hopeful long direct balls that were being scooped up by Johansen and Smyth in the centre of defence.
Town’s two full backs Cupples and Blacoe began to feature heavily and were getting around the back frequently and delivering great balls into the box but Town weren’t getting the rub of the green just missing the second balls or lucky deflections stopping them getting a shot away.
It was also some neat combination play between Wilson, Blacoe and McGuckin released Jack Hogg who had worked tirelessly all match with little reward and the nippy forward stole past the full back then dribbled past the centre back and just when he was ready to shoot from 8 yards out the ball took a horrible bobble to kill the chance.
By this stage it was all Town who had found their play but couldn’t find their scoring touch which they would have fully deserved with Shankill’s manager acknowledging Town’s impressive second half after the game. The only sour note to the game was a terrible, late tackle on Morgan Smyth which left him saw a Shankill player jump into his standing leg and hit him thigh high and leaving several deep bruises, the Town’s management team were agin left astounded when the referee only produced a yellow card for such a reckless tackle.
With no subs left Smyth carried on bravely and thankfully had little to do during the closing minutes and Town were left frustrated again when another attempt from Wilson flashed past the post.
Town can take a lot of positives from a game like this when compared to last season’s performances against Shankill. It was a great marker to show that the lads were disappointed in the result and a into make up for it when the teams meet again.
Full Time 0 v 3
Town: A Hancock, M Cupples, R Blacoe (c), M Smyth, D Johansen, S Wilson, A Woods, G Judt, J McNeill, J Hogg, R McGuckin
Subs: J McClune, A Da Silva