Two late goals saw Lisburn Ladies edge past Lurgan Town Ladies and advance into the 3rd round of the NIWFA cup in an entertaining fixture on a dark night at the Arena. With no promotion or relegation in the league this year due to the COVID 19 situation, the Cup represents a real opportunity to get some silverware and both teams were massively up for it from the first whistle.
Lisburn, who won this fixture in the league last week by 3 goals to nil started the game brightly, and they went ahead after 4 minutes with their first real chance of the game when striker Sara Stevenson chipped the ball over keeper Lauren Currie while under pressure to make it 1-0. Lurgan didnt drop their heads after conceding an early goal and went on the attack with a good run from winger Elisha Donnelly being stopped with a well-timed tackle by Lauren Mearns, before Currie gathered well from a free kick that was hit straight at her.
The game was being played in the middle of the park, and neither side were creating a lot of chances, but Lisburn captain Hayley Anderson was required to track back and clear well when it seemed that forward Roisin Bolger was through on 15 mins. Lisburn did carve out a good opportunity on 19 minutes, when winger Abbie Burnett got away down the left and got a cross into Stevenson, but she couldnt keep her looping header on target and it dropped just outside the back post.
Lurgan kept playing some good football but their equaliser had a touch of fortune about it as winger Niamh Ruddy swung in a corner to the near post that keeper Jessica Poots fumbled into her own net to draw the scores level at 1-1 after 27 minutes.
Lisburn nearly edged ahead two minutes later when winger Morgan Shannon got away down the right but good pressure from left back Teah Maguire meant that the shot wasnt clean and Currie was able to make a smart save at the near post, with the resulting corner defended well by Lurgan captain Tracy Orr, heading away to safety.
Burnett forced another good fingertip save from Currie on 35 minutes when she got down to clear an effort going in at the near post, before Jennifer Hinds poked the resulting corner wide of the post under pressure. Lurgan created a great chance themselves a short time later, with Maguire swinging in a great ball to the back post with Wendy Ballie just unable to get on the end of what would have been a tap in on 39 minutes, meaning the teams went in level at the break.
The second half began as the first had ended, with most of the game being played in midfield. The first real effort came on 49 minutes when Rachel Kerr hit a tame free kick from 25 yards that the keeper easily gathered, before good defending from Orr denied Burnett a shot at goal. Lisburn grew more and more into the game as the half went on, with Shannon getting away down the right and finding Stevenson, who tried to lob Currie again, but this time her effort was deflected wide. Stevenson had another chance to give her side the lead on 65 minutes, but her effort was straight at Currie who easily saved.
Lisburn were getting up the pitch and pushing bodies forward and they got their reward on 75 minutes when Burnett, whose pace and fitness were causing Lurgan some problems down the left, got the ball, cut back and laid it off to supporting left back Jessica Hall, whose cross towards the back post dropped in under the cross bar to give her team the lead, with Currie having no chance to save.
Lurgan had a chance on 82 minutes, when Bolger fired at goal but Poots was able to save, before Burnett put in another good cross but Jessica May Sellers sliding in at the back post just wasnt able to get on the end of it. Lisburn sealed the game right at the death, when midfielder Kerr hit smashed a 25 yard shot effort into the net to make the final score 3-1 in a thoroughly entertaining game.
Lisburn coach Hayden Davis was pleased with the performance: We had a few players missing tonight, but we have a good squad and we played some good football. Our fitness and desire showed and that got us through in the end. The players love a good cup run and hopefully we can go on and challenge for the silverware on offer this season!
Home team manager Colm Nash was disappointed, naturally: I cant fault the work rate from anyone on the team. We will keep our heads up, as better days are ahead.
(Report & Photograph: Ben Hanna)