The U19s came up against Cookstown the league leaders who had won all games to date which included a 5-1 win over Lurgan 3 weeks ago. Lurgan knew a major improvement was required to get something from the game. At least Lurgan could go into the first game of the season with all 15 squad players available.
On the back of the previous defeat to Cookstown the Town changed formation for this game but within 4 minutes it looked as if it wasn’t the best idea. Cookstown took the lead via a headed goal from their captain and centre half. It took Lurgan a few more minutes to settle in the new formation but to their credit when they did then it turned into an excellent game between 2 well matched teams. Lurgans confidence grew in the first half with wing backs Tim Millen and Callum Watkins showing great energy and attacking threat. In the centre midfield area McIvor, McKinley and Evans began to show composure, commitment and authority unlike the previous fixture against Cookstown. There were a numbers of half chances for Lurgan in the half but that all important equaliser was eluding Lurgan. Alex Woods and Andy McIvor were almost in on a couple of Lewis McKinley free kicks and Jack Evans had a header cleared of the line. Then a Lewis McKinley free kick was misjudged by the keeper but a defender was on the line to head clear. Cookstown were still a threat but Jonny Russell along with Jack O’Neill and Brett Smyth stayed compact however on the odd occasion the backline was breached there was the outstanding Adam Craig in Lurgans goal. Lurgan deservedly got the equaliser when Jack Evans played a through ball for midfield partner Andy McIvor to break Cookstown defensive line to calmly score.
The second half Lurgan showed more confidence that there could be something in this game for them. The creative play of McKinley, Woods and McIvor was very much in full flow. On a few occasions Aaron Winters was set up he almost put Lurgan in front but just hit a few of target. With the score all square Adam Craig made another superb save as he stopped a point blank shot. Adam was then in an unfortunate collision with a Cookstown player as he showed brave goalkeeping to come for a cross but got clattered. Adam was out cold for a few seconds but Lewis put him in the recovery position while he came around. Despite not having a replacement keeper and the game sitting at 1-1, coach Phil made the call to remove Adam from the game even though Adam wanted to continue. Ryan Upton volunteered to take up the duty in between the posts. Lurgan got the all important second goal when player of the match Tim Millen setup Aaron Winters to score with an excellent finish. There were still minutes left to play and on the few occasions Cookstown got shots on target they were dealt with by stand in keeper Ryan Upton.
A superb all round performance from Lurgan and a great win over the league leaders. Hopefully the squad can build on this performance as their season continues. Get well soon Adam Craig and credit to Ryan Upton for putting the goalie gloves on. This was a HEART ON THE SLEEVE performance.