Newry City AFC continued their preparations for the new season with what proved to be an entertaining and keenly contested challenge game against Cliftonville FC at the Showgrounds on Thursday night. The visitors, fresh from a Champions League qualifier against Glasgow Celtic the previous evening, paid Newry the respect of fielding a team which contained six players who played first team football in their Premiership winning team of last season.
For the new season The Showgrounds is in sparkling condition with the playing surface perfect for free flowing football which suited both teams. The away team soon made use of the conditions with neat interplay which needed the timely intervention of Newrys centre half Conor McCaul who snuffed out the threat. Indeed this was an early glimpse of what was to come as both McCaul and his partner Joel Annett were the top performers of the evening for Newry.
The home team were also posing a threat at the other end and soon manufactured a gilt edged chance for the first goal for the new club. Peter Thompson, a strong running attacker beat two defenders in his foray from the half way line and while it looked much like he had run into a cul de sac he was able to pull the ball back to Conor McCaul who’s driven cross struck a defenders hand for a clear penalty. Unfortunately Chris McMahon who has had an excellent preseason saw his penalty strike the outside of the post and go wide.
Undaunted, Newry continued to attack and had another good chance when a long cross from full back John Smyth was headed back into the box by the industrious Jimmy Walker to Gareth Hughes who blasted narrowly over.
Cliftonville took the lead in the 37th minute when a cross from the right wing was only half cleared to Darmuid O’Carroll who took the ball into the box and rounded Morley-Hillen in the home nets to put Cliftonville 1-0 up. Newry bounced back and on the stroke of half time a strong run from Shane Lundy set up John Smyth who’s left wing cross come shot deceived Barnett in the Cliftonville net who was relieved to see the ball slip over the cross bar.
Whilst the second half was evenly contested Newry perhaps had the clearer openings and continued to be solid at the back with the Louth County GAA keeper, Shane McCoy now between the sticks. Soon after the restart a long through ball from Annett gave Thompson a one on one against Barnett who deflected the shot for a corner. This was soon followed by a chance for Walker created by the tough tackling Lundy. Alas Walker was crowded out inside the box by the Cliftonville defence. And so the game flattened out except for a late breakaway goal from John Donnelly for Cliftonville to make the final score 2-0.
It was an all round good team performance from Newry – in a game were the positives far outweighed the negatives.
Man of the match: Conor McCaul
NCAFC donated the proceeds of the night, some £660 to the Kevin Bell Repatriation Fund. The evening would not have been possible without the support of Cliftonville FC to whom all at Newry City AFC are very grateful.
Next up for Newry is another friendly against Championship 2 side Armagh @ 14:30 Saturday 20th July. Newry Showgrounds.
Newry City Team: Nathan Morley-Hillen, Niall Crilly, John Smyth, Conor McCaul, Joel Annett, Chris McMahon, David O’Connor, Gareth Hughes, Peter Thompson, Jimmy Walker, Shane Lundy. Subs: Shane McCoy, Graham Edgar, Lonnie Larkin, Chris Smyth, Gary McVicar, Connor Lenaghan, Mark Lowry.
Cliftonville squad: Craig Barnet, Tomas Cosgrove, Eamon Seydak, Dermot McVeigh, Joe McNeill, Ciaran Donaghy, Conall McCandless, Chris Curran, Diarmuid O’Carroll, Johnny McMurray, Jody Lynch. Subs: Anthony O’Hanlon , Ryan McCloskey, John Donnelly.