The league season for the U19s kicked off with a home game against Markethill Swifts on Saturday morning.
Despite all the rain lately the Arena pitch was in excellent condition. Lurgan went into the game on the back on some excellent preseason performances. The squad this season will consist of 14 players eligible for U18 football. There are 3 new additions to the squad with Callum Watkins, Alex Woods and Odhran Crozier joining the 12 returning players.
Lurgan started on the front foot and put pressure on Markethills defence from kick off. It only took ten minutes for Lurgan to take the lead. The goal came when Lewis McKinley hit a free kick into the penalty area which Alex Woods scored with an exquisite flick header past the Swifts keeper.
However, Lurgans game went downhill from this moment and it was made worse with the lose of Jonny Russell to an ankle injury. Morgan Smyth was Jonny’s replacement. Instead of kicking on from taking the lead the team were overplaying and losing the physical challenges. The Swifts grew into the game and with Ben Dougan playing up front for them he was causing problems with is strong presence and running but generally Morgan and Brett Smyth dealt with any dangerous moments.
On a couple of occasions when the Swifts did get through they couldn’t beat Adam Craig as he pulled of some super saves. With Lurgan not playing to their normal level they still continued to create chances but the half finished with a one nil lead.
There was a little improvement in the early stages of the second half by the fact there was a more attacking intent from Lurgan. There were chances for Watkins, Woods, Boyd and McIvor to extend the lead but the opportunities went begging.
Lurgan made their final change of the game with Jack Evans replacing Pedro De Araujo therefore moving Alex Woods to the left and Jack taking up his usual centre midfield position. Lurgan doubled their lead when another assist from Lewis McKinley seen him play a dink pass over the Swifts defence for the impressive debutant Callum Watkins to take in his stride and place past the keeper. The third followed this time after Callum Watkins put the keeper under pressure as he dawdled on the ball therefore allowing Callum to take the ball and get away from the keeper to score into an open goal.
During the last ten minutes Lurgan started to leave spaces which Markethill exploited on a few occasions but Adam Craig was still unbeatable. However a freak goal in the last seconds direct from a corner kick left Adam caught out of position. This stopped Adam from keeping a clean sheet that his performance deserved. Lurgan had 3 players missing from the squad today but it was good to start the season. Hopefully a confidence boosting win in the teams first game in the Mid Ulster Juvenile League.
Despite the overall performance not up to the usual standard there were good individual performances. Adam Craig in goal, Morgan Smyth in defence, Alex Woods in midfield and man of the match Callum Watkins with a great performance and 2 goals.