Newry City picked up another 3 vital league points in their quest for promotion at the first time of asking from Mid Ulster Intermediate B at home to Oxford Sunnyside on Saturday. In truth this was a match which Newry won much more easily than the final 2-0 score line would suggest.
With injuries dictating a new front pairing of Peter Thompson and Mark Patton Newry spent virtually the whole of the first half in the Oxford half but only managed to create three good chances to score. The first of these came after 10 minutes. Shane Lundy swung in a corner which Chris McMahon met on the volley only for his goal bound effort to be blocked on the line by an Oxford defender.
It took another 10 minutes for the next goal chance and McMahon was involved again when he released Lonnie Larkin with a quick free kick from inside his own half. Larkin made ground on the right wing and drove a low ball across the Oxford six yard box. Graeme Edgar who had also made up a lot of ground from a deep position to bolster the Newry attack managed to slide forward to deflect the ball past the Oxford keeper but could not get enough power to his shot allowing an Oxford defender to clear the ball inches before it crossed the goal line.
Newrys last chance of the half fell the way of Larkin. Released by a quick Peter Murphy throw out Lundy took the ball to the half way line before finding Thompson on the corner of the box. Thompson laid the ball back to McMahon who crossed to the back post where Larkin was unfortunate to see his headed effort hit the side netting.
No doubt disappointed that their dominance was not reflected in the half time score line Newry started the second period in determined fashion. Missing his regular partner and play maker Jimmy Walker Newry captain Chris McMahon was relishing his role in central midfield as he demanded the ball from his defence and instigated the home attack. Equally centre forward Mark Patton was winning his battle with the Oxford defence both in the air with flick on’s to Lundy and Thompson and on the ground, winning and holding the ball up for his midfield.
Given this domination it appeared to be only a matter of time before Newry scored. On 60 minutes McMahon and the overlapping right back Niall Crilly combined to find Lundy on the edge of the six yard box. Lundy controlled the cross with his back to goal and laid the ball back to Larkin who blasted his shot narrowly over from the edge of the penalty area.
The next chance came almost immediately. Again Lundy found space to recieve a quick Murphy throw out. From deep inside his own half he beat several opposing players as he took the ball down the Newry left before crossing low into the box where it was met by Chris McMahon and an Oxford defender at virtually the same time, the defender deflecting McMahons effort at the expense of a corner. This nearly proved to be costly as Patton rose highest to meet Lundy’s corner only to watch in vain as his glancing effort sailed narrowly wide of the Oxford post.
However Patton was soon to be rejoicing. The introduction of Joe Campbell for his first team debut brought an added zipp to the Newry offence and almost immediately after coming he embarked on a mazy run beating a number of defenders. Having turned down a half chance to shoot from the edge of the box Campbell laid the ball back to Crilly who sent in a looping cross which was met by the head of Lundy at the back post. When Lundys effort was blocked by the keeper Patton was the first onto the rebound slotting the ball to the back of the Oxford net to open the scoring.
Campbell played an even bigger part in Newry’s second goal. After Crilly, McMahon and Paul McElroy combined in an intricate one touch passing movement which left Campbell in space on the right his cross picked out Man of the Match Shane Lundy at the back post and Lundy tucked the ball away for Newry’s second goal to seal the points.
Newry now sit at the top of the league table with 21 points with only 4 goals conceded in 8 league games. With three big games against team’s from the top third of the table on the horizon the Newry rear guard will need to continue their excellent start to the season if Newry are to consolidate their position at the top of the table..
However this week Newrys sights will be on the Irish Cup as they prepare for the 3rd round tie on Saturday 9th November at the Showgrounds v Downpatrick with a 1:30pm kick off.
Newry City AFC Team: Peter Murphy, Niall Crilly, David Anderson, Joel Annet, Conor McCaul, Lonnie Larkin, Graeme Edgar, Chris McMahon, Peter Thompson, Mark Patton (1), Shane Lundy (1). Subs Paul McElroy (Edgar), Joe Campbell (Larkin), Stefan Martin (Thompson), Ian Curran, Christopher Smyth.
Photographs: Brendan Monaghan