Students inflict defeat on Lurgan

Gemma Frazer, Elks and Alex Hurst, Lurgan
Gemma Frazer, Elks and Alex Hurst, Lurgan

Lurgan fell to their first defeat of 2013 when they went down 4-2 to the Ulster Elks in an incident-packed Premier League encounter at Jordanstown on Saturday.

The umpires were kept busy and on more than one occasion brought the two captains together to calm things down.

But although fiesty at times it was never a dirty game - in fact while the hockey seldom reached any dizzy heights it was a thoroughly entertaining contest that had everything.

There were a couple of spectacular goals from the Elks and a decent fightback from the visitors but the students were deserving winners.

The result keeps them in the mix for an Irish Hockey League berth next season although it may have to be via the wild card play-offs as fourth place may be beyond them.

For Lurgan the outcome, while unwelcome, is not a disaster and they stay top of the pile as Queen’s game with Victorians was postponed due to a bereavement in the latter’s camp.

The visitors goals came in the last six minutes as a testament to the losers battling qualities but the result was seldom in doubt after the Elks went inot the break 2-0 up.

Lurgan coach Gary Blythe confessed: “We were missing a couple of key players who were unavailable but that’s no excuse - we just didn’t turn up on the day.”

“But we are still top of the table and I believe we still have a good chance of winning the title as we still have to play the other top sides.”

It was evident from the start that this wasn’t the usual Lurgan and certainly not the same sort of side that famously beat Pegasus only a few weeks ago.

They badly missed the injured defender Hanna Grieve, who was watching powerlessly from the sidelines and the talent of Zoe Hawthorne who was unavailable.

But it was Lurgan who had the first chance after only four minutes when Lucy McKee set off on a great run and set up Chloe McCann who should at least have found the target.

Jayne Clarke put the Elks ahead three minutes later after a good move started by Rachel King and carried on by Laura Wilson allowing their team mate to tap home.

In the 13th minute Elks goalkeeper Susan Kells did well to save from McCann at the near post just when it looked like she would atone for her earlier miss.

Then Kells brought off a good stop from Lurgan captain Charlene Hull at a penalty corner as Lurgan threatened to score an equaliser.

In the 29th minute though it was the Elks who got goal number two although the circumstances were unfortunate and painful to say the least.

Hull’s ankle got in the way of a long ball out of the home team’s defence and she screamed in pain and fell to the ground.

Quite rightly the umpires allowed play to continue - had to been a blow to the head it would been different - and Caroline Smith raced clear and planted the ball past the ‘keeper to make it 2-0.

McKee had a chance to pull a goal back at the start of the second half but her lofted shot was palmed clear by Kells in the Elks goal.

In the 45th minute Serena Barr had an attempt stopped by Kells and then, at the other end, Victoria Parks saved well from Laura McAlpine who had been released by the impressive Kirstie Lammey.

Nine minutes later Hull, who had recovered from her first half injury, had a snap shot flash narrowly wide of the post but the goal Lurgan needed wouldn’t come.

Instead it was the Elks who got the next goal and it was an opportunist strike from Clarke who deflected the ball home after an assist from Louise Wright.

With 11 minutes remaining Lammey got the goal she deserved as she worked her way unchallenged across the top of the circle and unleashed a wonderful reverse stick shot reminiscent of the one she converted in an earlier game with Pegasus.

It was ‘game over’ as far as Lurgan were concerned but, if there was any crumb of comfort, they kept battling until the end and were rewarded with the last two goals.

Hull steered home a penalty corner at the second attempt from a narrow angle in the 64th minute and then, in stoppage time, McKee slammed in another set piece but it was too little, too late.