Newry go clear at the top!

Newry City AFC regained sole possession of the top spot in Mid Ulster B with a comprehensive victory over Moneyslane in a much anticipated league clash at Crystal Park, Banbridge on Saturday.  While every game has to be approached correctly, with 11 league games remaining, Newry would have looked at this as potentially one of the tougher remaining and for the first twenty minutes of the match that looked to be correct as both teams probed without managing to get a foot hold in the game.

When the first chance did come on 20 minutes it really should have been taken by Newry. Sean Hand slipped a pass through Moneyslanes flat back four which was latched onto by Mark Patton now with only Ivan Blevins in the home goal to beat. Patton took his time in the hope that Blevins would commit but the keeper got the better of this tussle blocking Pattons first effort with his legs and then palming the rebound round the post for a corner.

From this point on good chances kept coming Newrys way. Again Hand and Patton combined this time to set up David Anderson at the back post. Anderson chose not to shoot instead picking out Neil Barr on the edge of the box Barr pulling his first chance of the day wide of the far post. Having weathered the early battle Newry were in control all over the field allowing their back four who had withstood the early pressure to now join in the forward play.

On the half hour mark Conor McCaul won the ball in his centre half position and waltzed up field before being cynically fouled some 40 yards from goal. Hand clearly fancied his chances from distance and when his free kick took a slight deflection the opening goal seemed certain except for a brilliant reaction save from Blevins who got his finger tips to the ball to divert it wide. Minutes later another Newry defender, Gary McVicker got forward taking a pass from Jimmy Walker and shooting from outside the box the ball flashing across the face of the goal and wide of the far post.

Next it was Niall Crillys turn to get involved swinging in a dangerous cross from the opposite side which Moneyslane could only clear to the edge of the box from where Hand tried to curl his shot to the top corner Blevins again thwarting Newry. With over a half hour gone and nothing to show the Newry fans were getting a little uneasy and when on a rare home foray forward by Moneyslane the ball bobbled around the Newry box Paul McElroy came to the rescue blocking a close range shot around the post to safety.

However, the pressure on the Moneyslane goal had to bring reward and on 38 minutes Newry went 1-0 up Hand receiving a pass from Walker on the corner of the box and blasting his shot past Blevins to the delight of the travelling support. Newry almost doubled their advantage before half time. Captain Chris McMahon, who is having a tremendous season in the heart of the Newry team, took possession of the ball in the middle of the park before finding Hand wide on the left. Hand sucked the defender into a challenge before skipping past him and hitting target man Patton. As he has done so often this season Patton controlled and laid the ball back to Walker, his curling right foot shot inches wide of the post with Blevins beaten.

The second half started with Newry once again on the attack. Anderson hugging the right wing skipped past two tackles and found Walker again hovering on the edge of the box, Newry again unlucky as Walkers shot thumped off the post and away to safety. The Moneyslane goal really was leading a charmed life at this stage with chances coming thick and fast. McMahon and Crilly are sure to link up many times during a Newry game and on the hour mark they did just this to release Anderson again on the right wing. Anderson cut inside and hit in a low shot which Blevins could only parry with Patton the first to react, the Newry centre forward yet again bringing the best out of Blevins as he quickly recovered to block Patton’s reactive shot with his legs.

On 67 minutes it was the goal post again which came to Moneyslane’s rescue. McMahon won a towering header inside his own half, Patton flicked the ball between the central defenders with a glancing header to which Barr won the race and was very unfortunate to see his half volley cannon of the outside of the post. Amazingly Newry hit the Moneyslane post for the fourth time on 73 minutes and again it was to Patton’s misfortune, Crilly and Anderson once more combining to find the big man with his back to goal. In a flash Patton had turned his opposite number and watched in disbelief as his shot cannoned of the post with Blevins beaten.

Newry however sealed the points with two goals in three minutes both from top scorer Neil Barr. On 77 minutes McMahon played the ball through a gap in the home defence which Barr ran onto before slamming his shot past Blevins before repeating the feat three minutes later arriving at the near post to get on the end of neat passing movement between Walker and Anderson for Newry’s third goal.

With the damn now well and truly burst it was fitting that Newry’s best players on the day made and scored goal number four, McMahon floating in a high ball which was knocked down by Patton and snapped up by Man of the Match Anderson who planted his shot to the back of the Moneyslane net for number four. Moneyslane reduced the arrears with minutes remaining when Greg Harrison ran onto a through ball and chipped a delightful effort over Peter Murphy in the Newry goal for what was to be a consolation effort only with Newry running out 4-1 winners.

Newry manager Darren Mullen was obviously happy after the game but adamant that nothing was in the bag yet “It was another complete team performance from start to finish. We knew Moneyslane would be up for the game but our defence handled anything they had in the opening half hour or so and we never looked troubled. Once we got to grips with the game our fitness and pace showed. Although we missed many chances during the game we kept creating and there were many positive to take, not least another three points which takes us back to the top of the league. We told the players we have 10 cup finals to go and we will ensure that they are focused on the games ahead”

Newry’s next match is Saturday 29th March away to Lurgan Town. NCAFC Travel club bus will leave the Stonebridge @ 13:15hrs, all welcome.

MOTM: David Anderson

Photograph courtesy of Brendan Monaghan.

Newry City AFC: Murphy, Crilly, McElroy, McCaul, McVicker, McMahon, Walker, Anderson, Patton, Barr, Hand. Subs: Lundy, Lowry, Edgar, Annett.