Belfast Telegraph

Lurgan Celtic take huge step closer to title with win over Annagh

By Keith Bailie

Lurgan Celtic are within touching distance of the Belfast Telegraph Championship One after Saturday's impressive 4-0 win over fellow promotion hopefuls Annagh United.

The Lurgan club need six points from their final five games to ensure they are one of the two teams promoted to the second tier. Colly Malone's side are now three points clear of second-placed Annagh, and five points clear of third-placed Limavady United.

Both Chris Lavery and Ryan Fitzpatrick scored twice at Knockramer Park in Saturday's vital win.

Reflecting on the top-of-the-table clash, experienced manager Malone said: "It's a big result for the club, we're all over the moon with it. Obviously, when you win 4-0, the attackers will get the attention, but I think our defence deserve a lot of credit. We've only conceded 17 goals in the league this season, which is an incredible record.

"Annagh are well-known for their goalscoring, so I was delighted with our defensive display. We barely gave them a sniff all day. I can't remember them having a shot on goal.

"It was a big game in terms of the promotion battle and the title race, so for us to win 4-0 was a big achievement, and in all honesty, I think we could have won by more. We gave nothing away and dominated the play."

Although Celtic are now clear favourites for promotion to Championship One, Malone is refusing to take anything for granted.

"We are well-placed, there is no denying that, but nothing is done and dusted yet. We've still got a lot of work to do if we are to win promotion.

"I believe, if we win our next two games, against Newington and Moyola Park, then we will have secured promotion. That is our first big aim, so we will be working towards that.

"When you get to this stage, you want to win the league. This club has never won a league before, so it would be a massive boost for everybody at this end of the town. But we will be taking each game as it comes. We're close to the line, but we're not over the line just yet."

Lurgan Celtic can take another step towards promotion on Tuesday night (6.30pm) when they play Newington at Knockramer Park.

Former Glenavon boss Malone said: "Newington are a good team, so we're expecting a tough game. They're in the top half of the table and on Saturday had a good win at Portstewart, so it won't be easy.

"However, we will just be focusing on our own game. It's that old scenario of just taking one game at a time."

Annagh United and Limavady United are both still in title contention, while Belfast club Sport & Leisure Swifts could still claim one of the two promotion places.

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