After a confident win against Mossley last week, Raphoe 1st XI ladies knew they needed to improve on this performance against Lurgan, Champions of Premier League for four consecutive years.
Lurgan has made a strong start to the season so far, without conceding a goal or dropping a point.
The match started off positive for Raphoe, who appeared more dominant of the two sides. Raphoe maintained most of the possession and moved the ball fast upfront.
Zara Tinney came close to opening the score line when Leanne Patterson received a pass from Vicky Wray in midfield. Patterson quickly found Tinney unmarked in the circle for a one on one with the 'keeper. Lurgan's number one came out strong and committed to a tackle and prevented any shot on goal.
Lurgan began to increase the intensity upfront and became close to securing a lead when an unfortunate slip from Wray resulted in a one on one with keeper Heather Humphrey. Humphrey quickly reacted and dived straight for the forward, clearing the ball from the circle.
Leading into the second quarter, Raphoe continued to move the ball well out of defence, attacking strong on the right of the pitch, with powerful runs from Arlyne Kilpatrick.
Raphoe set up strong to trap the ball in Lurgan's defence and maintained pressure on their left back. This resulted in an error on their hit out, with Leanne Patterson intercepting a pass at a critical area in Lurgan's defence. Patterson drove for the backline, beating their defence to flick it over the keeper, where Lisa Smyth was ready to volley it into the back of the net, breaking Lurgan's clean sheet record.
Lurgan did not let this affect their performance, as they increased numbers upfront, having several opportunities in the circle, resulting in consecutive short corners. As first runner, Lisa Patterson committed to block the first strike, however Lurgan quickly regained possession to have a reverse shot to the right post, narrowly missed by Sabrina Barnett.
The first half finished 1-1 with all to play for in the second half.
Lurgan made a positive start to third quarter, moving the ball with pace upfront, trying to create space in Raphoe's circle. Lurgan were unable to penetrate the circle as Janice Nelson, Victoria Wray and Arlyne Kilpatrick defended the 23 resolutely with sound tackles and solid interceptions.
Sabrina Barnett was a key player upfront linking well with the midfield, Wendy Patterson and Lyndsey Tinney to create openings upfront.
The game was neck in neck for both sides, as they both struggled to penetrate the circle. Lurgan tactically changed their play to predominantly attack on the right, however, Sophie Wallace and Shannon Porter remained resilient to break down play on the left, quickly counterattacking with their speed and skill.
Leading into the final crucial quarter, Lurgan found their attacking form with several hits into the circle, with keeper Humphrey becoming a critical player for Raphoe, clearing the ball on several occasions.
Lurgan were desperate to secure a lead and threw aerials from defence to ease pressure coming from the Donegal side. Raphoe began to feel the pressure as Lurgan increased their numbers upfront and gaining consecutive short and long corners.
Raphoe had a few opportunities in the final quarter, when Arlyne Kilpatrick attacked on the right to penetrate the D, gaining a short corner, which was confidently defended by Lurgan .
The contest became heated in the closing stages of the game, with both sides desperate to seal the 3 points. With five minutes remaining, Lurgan found a through ball into Raphoe's circle. Humphrey was quick to get a touch but Lurgan were eager to rebound, resulting in a scrap in front of the goal line. Several players from both sides were trying their best to gain possession but Lurgan found that clinical touch to squeeze it over the line making it 2-1.
Raphoe worked tirelessly to gain an equaliser against the current champions but were unlucky not to earn a deserved point. Despite the result, the Donegal side showed a fine display of attacking and defensive play against this experienced team.
Next week's fixture is at home to Dungannon at 1pm.
Team: Heather Humphrey, Arlyne Kilpatrick, Victoria Wray, Janice Nelson, Zara Tinney, Lyndsey Tinney, Wendy Patterson, Shannon Porter, Sabrina Barnett, Leanne Patterson, Lisa Smyth, Rebecca Wauchope, Sophie Wallace, Sarah Boal and Alison Stewart
Player of the Match - Victoria Wray