Lurgan Thistle travelled to Ballymacoss Playing Fields in Lisburn to face a high flying Santos FC side that are deservedly chasing automatic promotion to Division 3. The last time the two sides met, the Jags recorded a 9-2 win and Santos were looking to make amends for that scoreline.
There were a few injury doubts and late pull outs in the Jags squad. Junior Crawford was still troubled by his shoulder injury from the previous week and Darren Kelly came in for his first team debut between the sticks. Jonny Haughian was forced out with a groin injury, Ciaran McGeown
passed a late fitness test after struggling with a virus, as did Jack Patterson with a troublesome rib injury. The long season is beginning to take its toll as a couple of other players stripped out with niggling injuries. The young pair of Michael McDaid
and Chrissy Kelly came in as cover for the bench, along with Marty Black
who had just returned from a foot injury.
The Jags started well and had Santos on the back foot. James Agnew
headed back for Ritchie McLaverty to put the Thistle in front. Mark Ferris then set up stephen smith
for a low angled drive past the 'keeper to put the Jags two up. Santos began to find a foothold in the game, but Darren Mallon marshalled the defence well to keep them at bay. Santos scored though from a deflected free kick to make the half time score 2-1.
Manager Billy Patterson emphasised the importance of the next goal and discipline at the back during his half time talk and Mark Ferris duly stepped up to hammer home a free kick in off the back stanchion. Jack Patterson followed up as it came back into play, but the referee had already awarded the goal. Marty Black
came on at right back as big Mick Millar was forced off with injury with Stevie Smith moving across to centre back. Full credit to Santos who then came back to level at 3-3. Mickey Mulholland went in shoulder to shoulder in the box and the referee gave a very soft penalty and then the tricky Santos number 15 crossed to the back post for their striker to head home and level things.
Again the resilience in this Thistle side kicked into overdrive and with just ten minutes to go, the Jags added a further two goals from Mark Ferris and Ritchie McLaverty with his 6th first team goal of the season and 11th in total, to run out 5-3 winners and stretch the unbeaten run to six games.
Man of the Match was awarded to Darren Mallon at the heart of defence, with Ritchie McLaverty yet again in the running with his work-horse display in the centre of the park. Mark Ferris had perhaps his best game yet in a Thistle jersey as the Jags upset the odds to claim a hard fought victory. The victory came at a price though as Davy Steele suffered two broken ribs and will miss the final two games of the season. Everyone at Lurgan Thistle wishes Davy a speedy recovery.
Next week the Jags travel to Dungannon Park to face second placed Corinthians in the penultimate game of the season.