Lurgan made it three wins from three with a fine victory over a spirited East Belfast side on a wet night at Lurgan Town FC. They started quickly, with midfielder Kerry Taggart hitting a low drive in the 4th minute that was deflected towards the bottom corner, but East Belfast goalkeeper Kirsty Legge was able to dive low and catch.
However it was East Belfast who took the lead in the 8th minute, when a quick breakaway saw striker Mellisa Galloway get the ball outside the box on the left hand side after a mistake from the Lurgan defence, who let the ball bounce. She made no mistake, chipping it over the onrushing Megan McCabe who had no chance to stop it to make it 1-0 to the visiting team.
Lurgan, with a new lease of life under manager Ryan McConville, didn’t let going behind affect their game too much and they kept the pressure on the opposition. The equalizer came shortly after, in the 11th minute, when ex-Cliftonville midfielder Trudi Harbinson hit a cross into the box following a corner that sailed over the head of Legge and into the top corner to even the scores.
With both teams trying to play football, it was always going to be a game that saw a few chances, and Lurgan winger Leanne Domican looked like she was going to put her team ahead on 17 min when she cut inside after beating her marker and rifled a curling shot that Legge somehow managed to touch onto the bar at full stretch.
East Belfast were right in the game as well, and had a succession of corners, but could not break down the stalwart defence led by captain Tracy Orr.
Lurgan got themselves in front in the 25th minute, when Harbinson played the ball to midfield partner Amy McAllister who fed Elisha Donnelly out on the right wing. She had time and space to pick her spot and fire low across the keeper right into the corner to make it 2-1.
The pressure was starting to pay off and they nearly doubled their advantage in the 32rd minute when Domican broke away and got around the keeper, but her touch was just too heavy, and the ball was cleared to safety, before East Belfast captain Alison Lowey cleared a header from Taggart off the line following another corner in the 35th minute.
Further efforts came before half time for Domican and McAllister but neither were able to challenge Legge in the East Belfast goal, ensuring that there was only one goal between the teams at the break.
East Belfast started the second half brightly, themselves having a header cleared off the line by Tracy Orr in the 47th minute before a low drive from range by defender Kirsty Miskimmon was caught by McCabe. However they found themselves further behind with only six minutes into the half, when the ball was played to Donnelly who again finished confidently into the corner to give her team a two goal advantage.
East Belfast were putting in plenty of effort, but they were getting less of the ball than in the first half, and as such were beginning to tire. This was clearly seen on 67 min when Taggart robbed Mollie Moore of the ball and ran towards goal, before being fouled by Moore in the box as she attempted to recover. Orr stepped up and dispatched the penalty emphatically to make it 4-1 to the hosts.
Moore almost made up for the error in the 70th minute, when she showed good skill to turn two players and feed Tash Bamford, but her low drive across goal was saved well by McCabe.
With East Belfast pushing up the pitch they were always going to be susceptible to the counter attack, and so it proved when substitute Celine Curtis finished confidently on 77 min after a cutback from Donnelly following a break.
There were a few half chances for both teams in the final few minutes, but neither team was able to add to the scoring.
Lurgan Manager McConville was pleaded with the performance, “We played well tonight. East Belfast are a good side and they got an early goal from a mistake at the back. But we were able to show our quality and get back in the game quickly, and went on to win comfortably in the end. We only got 7 points last year, and now we have 9 from three games, so we are heading in the right direction!
Lurgan are away to Ballymena for next week’s league fixture while East Belfast host Killen Rangers.