Slick Ards stay in pole position with victory over Lurgan

Ards Amy Benson in possession but Lurgan's Adele Hurst is close by
Ards Amy Benson in possession but Lurgan's Adele Hurst is close by

Ards are normally their own biggest critics but they were more than satisfied and rightly so with Saturday’s 3-0 Premier League win over Lurgan.

Bar an early scare this was a most comprehensive victory fashioned by some slick team work and three splendidly created goals.

The result keeps Ards in pole position at the top of the table with a four point lead over champions Pegasus although the latter have the benefit of a game in hand.

Pegasus face Harlequins in a rescheduled game on Wednesday night and will be hot favourites to narrow the gap.

But if Ards can reproduce this sort of form in their remaining games then it is hard to see even Pegasus stopping them adding the league to the Ulster Shield they already have in the trophy cabinet.

“We were very happy with the way we played and we scored some good goals and the third one, in particular, was an excellent effort,” said team manager Phil Mills.

Lurgan were fearing an even heavier defeat after conceding two early goals and were relieved to have been able to hold their heads high at the final whistle.

“When we were 2-0 down so early in the game you wonder will they go on and score a lot more - they are a great side and we were left chasing the game.” said manager Darwin Murray.

Ards didn’t have any time to celebrate their latest win as, instead, they had to keep their wits about them for an indoor training session at UUJ yesterday.

They have the European Championships in that version of the game to look forward to next month and so are training harder than ever.

If ever there was evidence of the benefits of indoor hockey on the outdoor game then Ards collectively personified it on Saturday as their passing was slick, accurate and effective and Lurgan simply couldn’t live with it.

However it was the visitors who had the first chance of the game after less than a minute when Pippa Best set up Jayne Clarke whose close range shot was smothered by Naomi McKnight in the Ards goal.

But the home side launched a swift counter attack and after several quick passes Amy Benson expertly set up Katy Bennett who was left with a straightforward finish from a yard out.

In the 17th minute Ards doubled their lead with another excellent team goal, Naomi Elliott, Chloe Brown and Tamara Macleod all involved in the build up for Sara Alexander to provide the cross for Benson to make it 2-0.

Brown then had two chances to score, first crashing the ball towards the goal only for Alex Hurst to clear it off the line before any of the strikers could pounce.

Two minutes later Brown dashed into the circle and elected to shoot but sadly for her her reverse stick effort went into the side netting.

Nine minutes after the restart Brown was the architect of goal number three which was the best of the game as Ards turned defence into attack with devastating effect.

She came out with the ball thirty yards from her own goal after a well timed tackle and set off on a brilliant run before looking up and finding Macleod who picked out Alexander at the far post and she whacked the ball home with a first time shot.

In the 55th minute Brown had a penalty corner well saved by Naomi Costley in the Lurgan goal and then Alexander chipped a shot over the bar.

Lurgan had a chance late on but unfortunately Clarke failed to get enough power into her shot when well placed and McKnight was able to make a straightforward stop.