With three games of their NCU Premier League season remaining, the odds appear to be stacked against Lurgan staying in the top flight.
The cynics will say this is no surprise because during their last campaign among the NCU’s elite, the Pollock Park side failed to win a single one of their 18 matches.
But under the determined captaincy of Stephen Johnston, Lurgan started the 2013 campaign well, winning three of their first six matches to sit comfortably in mid-table.
However, since then the story has been along the lines that the script writers would have expected. Five consecutive defeats have left Johnston’s team hanging off the Premier League precipice, four points adrift of safety with matches against leaders Instonians, Civil Service North and derby rivals Waringstown offering unlikely salvation.
Johnston, bullish and confident before a ball was bowled back in April, isn’t about to throw in the towel ahead of today’s home match against Instonans.
He said: “When we played them the first time in the league we had them beaten, we were ahead on Duckworth-Lewis, but the rain came. In the cup game we were a couple of fielders away from winning the game.
“In the rearranged league game we were outclassed, it’s as simple as that.
“But in a couple of games we have given them a real scare, a proper scare. On their day Instonians are one of the best teams in the
league, but on their day they are beatable.”
Johnston’s problem has been getting his best team out on the park. The captain himself missed vital matches on honeymoon and John Guy, the seam bowler, has been a recent absentee.
Guy returns on Saturday, weather permitting, along with Ireland under-19 batsman James McCollum. Johnston isn’t setting targets but two wins
from three matches is the bare minimum requirement, especially with Lurgan’s net run rate below that of their likeliest rivals, Ballymena
“We have to take it one game at a time and fight as hard as we can,” Johnston added. “There’s no doubt that we are in quite a poor position now but we have to believe we can get out of it. It’s good to have
something close to our strongest team back, especially John Guy who has bowled superbly this season. For me he has deserved selection for
In the other games scheduled for today, North Down must beat CI to maintain their title challenge and Civil Service North go to
Ballymena. There is little at stake at Wallace Park where Lisburn host Waringstown.
Instonians host Waringstown on Sunday, and two wins this weekend will take Eugene Moleon’s men close to the league title.
Ulster Bank NCU League
Premier Section (noon):
Ballymena v CSNI
Lurgan v Instonians
Lisburn v Waringstown
North Down v CIYMS
Carrickfergus v Muckamore
Dundrum v Donaghcloney
Laurelvale v Downpatrick
Woodvale v Derriaghy
Academy v Millpark
Bangor v Armagh
Drumaness v Cooke Collegians
Cregagh v Holywood
Larne v Saintfield
Ards v BISC
Donaghadee v Victoria
PSNI v Dungannon.
Minor Qualifying Cup final
Ballymena IV v Armagh III (at Templepatrick).
NCU Premier League:
Instonians v Waringstown
Ulster Plate final: North Down II v Waringstown II (at The Lawn).