Armagh City leapfrogged rivals Loughgall in the league table after securing all three points at Holm Park in a typical full-blooded derby fixture that, unfortunately, saw little good football being played.
A set-piece was required to settle the difference between the sides and Stevie Murray obliged in the second period to net his 84th goal in 100 appearances for the hosts.
Loughgall started brightly and should have been ahead after 10 minutes when Stephen O’Neill was too strong for Ryan McGerrigan before seeing his close-range shot parried by ‘keeper Sean Morgan. The loose ball bounced up for Daniel Burns as he couldn’t keep his half-volley on target when well-placed.
Villagers goalkeeper Gareth Buchanan was called into action in the 23rd minute when he did superbly to tip over Paul Carville’s well-struck effort. From the resultant corner the warning signs were there for the Loughgall defence, a pinpoint delivery from Carville was met by Ultan Lennon however he couldn’t direct his header on target.
Six minutes later City captain Liam Cullen missed an glorious chance when he headed wide, amid no pressure, after Philip Donnelly’s cross from the left flank.
Marcus Dallas forced home ’keeper Morgan into a fine save when he was at full-stretch to deny a rifled 25-yard strike towards the bottom corner just before the break.
The deciding goal came in the 56th minute when Lennon headed Dale Montgomery’s corner across goal and forward Murray was on hand to nod in from close range.
Loughgall began to dominate possession as they searched for an equaliser however Brian Adair’s side failed to create many clear-cut opportunities.
Murray had a chance to double City’s lead when, on 77 minutes, he sidestepped Ricky Copeland before unleashing a low left-footed strike that was well-saved by ‘keeper Buchanan.
The closest Loughgall came to levelling was when substitute Chris Kingsberry’s floated cross fell nicely to Copeland at the back post however the central defender failed to keep his snapshot down as it sailed over the crossbar.
Loughgall: Buchanan, Carson, Moffatt, Copeland, Stewart, Dallas, Ferguson, Curtis (Kingsberry 69m), D Burns, Mullen (A Burns 73m), O’Neill. Unused subs: Alderdice, Black.
Armagh City: Morgan, Montgomery, McGerrigan, Lennon, Noonan, Moore (McAnallan 73m), Cullen, Carville, O’Hara, Murray, Donnelly (L Grimley 76m).