NCAFC 1-2 Fivemiletown Utd

If a football side can have a bogey team then this season Fivemiletown have been Newry City’s. After Saturdays defeat a record of three loses from as many games suggests that the Newry boys have little to complain about but those who have followed Newry this season would agree that the sentiments expressed by Newry manager Darren Mullen after Saturdays defeat encapsulate not only the Fivemiletown trilogy but Newrys entire season “This game sums up our season in terms of missed chances and defensive mistakes. Having played them twice already we knew how they would set up and we created enough chances to win any game but between not taking those and a few defensive mistakes we have again paid the price.”

From the early stages Saturdays game had the feeling of an end of season match with fully 15 minutes elapsed before the first shot at goal was registered, Jimmy Walker slipping a through ball to Sean McMullan who pulled his shot from the corner of the penalty box wide of the far post. Playing against a fairly strong breeze Newry were content to retain possession passing and probing and made their next scoring chance after 25 minutes, Chris McMahons incisive pass latched onto Mark Lowry who got to the ball just before the visiting defender to poke it past him and now with sight of goal chose to shoot early, his effort from the edge of the box straight into the mid drift of the Fivemiletown keeper Cameron Crawford. And the final chance of a fairly tame first half came on 35 minutes, this time Walker ran behind the Fivemiletown defence to pick up a David O’Connor pass, Walker also choosing to shoot early, his effort beating Crawford but also the far post to fly wide leaving the first half scoreless.

With the elements behind them Newry were on the front foot from the beginning of the second half and almost went into an immediate lead Lowry benefitting from a McMullan flick to break free taking the ball to the edge of the area before returning the favour to his strike partner now inside the box. With everyone expecting a McMullan shot the big man spotted Walker arriving on the edge of the small box, Walker’s shot low to Crawford’s left forcing a fine save from the keeper who used his leg to deflect the ball round the post for a corner.

Up to this Connor Ruddy, who was making his return to the Newry nets, hadn’t had much to do but on 55 minutes needed to make a smart save to keep the scores level, diving forward to claim a low crossed ball with Jason Gillispie about to pounce.

Photograph courtesy of Brendan Monaghan Photography.
Photograph courtesy of Brendan Monaghan Photography.

Newry were straight back onto the attack and made a series of chances from crossed balls, first for McMullan at the near post from a Lowry cross and the for Conor McCaul at the back post from a Walker corner, neither effort however troubling Crawford.

And as has happened so often Newry were punished for not taking any of these chances when just after the hour mark Fivemiletown’s Simon Robb hit a cross come shot across the Newry goal, the ball getting held up in the breeze which made its flight impossible for Ruddy to judge, the ball helped over the line at the back post by Matty Gallagher to put the visitors a goal up.

Having conceded against the run of play Newry reacted well and were very unfortunate not to level the scores almost straight away. Again McMullan and Lowry were involved creating a shooting opportunity for David O’Connor from the edge of the penalty area, a chance which the defender could hardly have struck much better desperately unfortunate to see his shot canon of Crawford’s crossbar with the keeper a bystander.

The home side continued to probe and were eventually rewarded with 70 minutes gone when Walker intercepted a clearance before picking out the perfectly timed run of McMullan who beat the offside trap before calmly taking the ball round Crawford and walking the ball into the net to level the scores. The home support could have expected their team to kick on after this and although Newry were virtually camped in the Fivemiletown half for the next 15 minutes they struggled to find a way through a stubborn defence, their best chance on goal limited to a Paulis Smaryginas shot from the edge of the penalty area from a McMullan lay off which was blocked by a covering defender with Crawford beaten.

And with 87 minutes on the clock Fivemiletown grabbed the winning goal from a corner, Gillespie allowed a free run to rise unchallenged to power his header past Ruddy from close range.

So confined to a mid table finish this game will have reinforced manager Mullen’s thoughts as he builds for next season “I know what’s needed for next season and we will be working hard to get the right players in but we have a responsibility to first finish of this season in the right manner. To do that we have to learn to cut out the mistakes and to finish off the chances we work so hard to create. Next week’s game against Camlough is the perfect opportunity to put things right and it’s a game we will all be looking forward to.”

NCAFC Team: Connor Ruddy, Niall Crilly, David O’Connor, Conor McCaul, Ian Curran, Josh Durnin, Jimmy Walker, Chris McMahon, Sean McMullan, Mark Lowry, Sean Hand. Subs: Keith Johnston, Graeme Edgar, Stefan Martin, Neil Barr, Paulius Smaryginas.

 Photographs Courtesy of Brendan Monaghan Photography.

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