Tuesday night turned out to be “one of those nights” for Newry City AFC when nothing went right. Fresh from 3 victories the Newry lads should have started this home league match against St Mary’s full of confidence. However from the first whistle the game was played at a hectic pace with the Portadown side clearly intent on disrupting the Newry passing game. Littered with petulant fouls the tone for the match was set as early as the 5th minute when Newrys Mark Lowry who was prostrate on the ground had his hand trod on by the St Mary’s centre half as he ran past, the large home support aghast when the referee interpreted what appeared to be a deliberate action as worthy of only a yellow card.
In a first half void of any clear cut goal chances the home crowd were further disappointed on 30 minutes when a long high ball into the Newry area was met by the head of home defender Paul McElroy who in an attempt to head wide planted the ball past the helpless Peter Murphy in the Newry goal to put St Mary’s 1-0 ahead. Newry immediately responded with the best passage of football of the game with most of the defence and entire midfield involved in a one touch passing movement which culminated with a strike on goal from defender Gary McVicker which flew narrowly wide. Unfortunately, this was as near as the Newry got to scoring in the first half.
Invigorated no doubt by the half time team talk Newry were much more lively in the second period and immediately took the game to St Mary’s who seemed intent on holding on to their one goal advantage. Newrys new found attitude clearly rattled the Portadown side who continued to be guilty of persistent fouling in their effort to slow the pace of the game. Ironically, it was from one of these frees that Newry had their best chance of the evening. Awarded a free just inside the St Mary’s half McVicker floated in a high ball which was flapped at by Johnny McKeever in the Portadown side’s goal. Home expectation arose when the ball bounced towards the seasoned Sean Hand who had just come on to the field as a substitute having recovered from an early season injury. Unfortunately, this chance was Hand’s first involvement in the game and he chose to shoot first time when perhaps a controlling touch was the better option and his shot flew over the gaping goal.
Tempers were heightened moments later when Niall Crilly crunched the St Mary’s winger Chris Fay with a tackle from behind. When both players ended on the ground the referee apparently failed to spot Fay lashing out with his feet at Crilly who was the only one booked in the melee which followed. And a bad night in football terms for Newry got even worse when the referee adjudged that a shoulder charge from Newry’s Chris McMahon on a Fay, which saw the away player bundled onto the gravel ground surrounding the pitch, was worthy of a straight red card.
While the large home support could have been forgiven for thinking with 30 minutes left and a man and a goal down that the points were gone this was not the attitude adopted by the ten men on the pitch who for the rest of the game bombarded the away goal.
Newrys best chances were the result of free kicks as the St Marys team continued to commit niggling fouls in the middle section of the field. Despite valiant efforts from Gareth Hughes, Joel Annett and McElroy to convert the resultant crossed balls into an equalizer, their headed attempts just refused to go into the net. And when the referee adjudged that Neill Barr had fouled the defender in a tussle for the ball inside the St Mary’s box when most of those present were sure the defender had handled, then indeed, it was to be “just one of those nights” for Newry as the game ended 1-0 in favour of St Mary’s.
Best for Newry was teenager Joel Annett who was awarded the home Man of the Match award after the game by Chairman Martin McLoughlin.
Newry now look forward to taking on Castlecaulfield in the Marshall Cup, at 2.15pm at the Showgrounds on Saturday!! Fundraising Quiz in the Social Club after the match.
Newry City AFC Team: Peter Murphy, Niall Crilly, Gary McVicker, Joel Annett, Paul McElroy, Jimmy Walker, Paul Daly, Chris McMahon, Neil Barr, Mark Lowry, Shane Lundy. Subs: Sean Hand, John Smyth, Chris Smyth, Lonnie Larkin, Gareth Hughes.
St.Mary’s Team: Johnny McKeever, Gerard Bailey, Neill McKee, Aidan McGrath, Gary Lawless, James Slater, Ryan McKee, Ciaran McCann, James Curran, Luke Carvill, Chris Fay. Subs: Patrick Lamph, Conor Jackson, Canice McCavanagh, Sean Mallon.