It was never going to be an easy game to start the new year away to a St Mary’s team who had clearly adapted well to playing on a pitch which some may deem, completely unacceptable for Reserve Championship level. Nonetheless, the players and the management knew that it was crucially important for the Reserves to continue their momentum from before the break into the second half of the season.
In what was a very open first 45 minutes, both teams had good chances on the break to score, with Graham Bunting and Matt Irvine coming closest for the Reserves. It was the latter who used his experience to evade the offside trap and latch on to a Simon Freeburn cross, finishing beautifully on the volley over the St Mary’s goalkeeper.
The second half started at a frantic pace with St Mary’s coming at Lurgan Town quickly and despite soaking up the pressure well, a cross from the left hand side of the pitch and a glancing header from the St. Mary’s centre forward, levelled the score at People’s Park.
At an important time in the match, Town regrouped, fell into a disciplined shape without the ball and began to target specific areas of the pitch in an attempt to retake the lead. With 25 minutes left, Niall McBride latched on to a pass, rounded the St.Mary’s goalkeeper and produced an exquisite finish into the far corner from the tightest of angles, making it 2-1 to Lurgan Town.
The next goal was crucial, and with the Town defence now pushing higher up the pitch, those players in the attacking third were afforded the opportunity to put more pressure on the St.Mary’s defence. Persistent pressing allowed the ball to land to Niall McBride again, who manoeuvred himself into space and calmly slotted the ball home from the edge of the box, to make it 3-1.
The last 10 minutes of the match centred around controlling the game through to its conclusion, which the Lurgan Town players executed efficiently. St.Mary’s were reduced to one half chance from 30 yards in the closing minutes of the game. A superb effort was even more brilliantly saved by the consistently reliable Adam Craig.
A hard earned and deserved 3 points which the players will enjoy through the weekend until we are back at training on Tuesday evening, with full focus on next Saturday’s game.
n of the Match: Simon Wilson