Without a first team game Newry City AFC fielded a mixture of experience and youth in their reserve side against Banbridge Town Reserves in Saturday’s Wilmor Johnston Cup match at the Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.
It took almost 15 minutes for Banbridge to mount a meaningful attack, a quick breakout from defence which had to be snuffed out by a perfectly timed challenge by Newrys Micky Hastewell. By this stage however Newry had three good chances, a left foot shot from Sean Hand which fizzed over the cross bar, a first time shot from Andy McLarty straight at the keeper after Shane Lundy had set him up on the penalty spot with a cross pulled back from the end line and sandwiched in between these on eigth minutes the first goal of the game from Joe Campbell. Conor McCaul, playing his first game since before Christmas, took the ball out of defence before finding McLarty midway inside the Banbridge half. Wide on the left McLarty cut inside and watched as his shot took a deflection falling perfectly into the path of Campbell arriving in the box, Campbell’s sliding volley giving the Banbridge keeper no chance putting Newry 1-0 up.
The home team thought that they should have been given the chance to double the advantage almost immediately when Lundy embarked on a mazy run taking him to the edge of the Banbridge six yard box where he appeared to be fouled in the act of shooting, the referee however waving claims for a penalty away. Despite dominating possession for the remainder of the half Newry only had one more chance to score, Graeme Edgar, who had an excellent run out in the centre of midfield, combined with Lundy who’s cross found Cian Feehan just outside the box. Feehan took one touch to control before unleashing a dipping shot which skimmed over the Banbridge bar to leave the halftime score 1-0 in Newry’s favour.
Newry did not have to wait long after the restart for number two. Sean Hand, also returning after a period of absence, won possession with a strong challenge on the half way line, the ball breaking up field and kept in play by the sprinting Campbell. Now in space Campbell had time to compose himself before picking out Hand, who had made up the ground to be inside the box, with a perfect cross which Hand nodded into the far corner of the net.
The home side were finally turning the pressure into goals and added number three minutes later. Lundy was again involved crossing from the left to McLarty who kept getting himself into good scoring positions but was having no luck registering, this time his effort was blocked by the Banbridge keeper. To his credit McLarty kept battling for the loose ball which he won back before finding Hand who placed his shot through a congested six yard box and into the Banbridge net to make it 3-0 for Newry.
The home side were caught napping on 54 minutes when a long ball straight up the middle of the pitch was latched onto by David Gray inside the Newry penalty area who slipped his shot under home custodian Paul Murphy to give Banbridge some hope. Indeed Banbridge did have a little more in the way of attacking play in the following minutes but had their efforts snuffed out by Emmett Scullion and Hastewell in the Newry defence.
The final chances of the day both came the home sides way. On 70 minutes strong play from McLarty won the ball in the middle of the field from where he made ground before crossing to Peter Thompson inside the box. With his back to goal Thompson rolled a pass to Edgar who blasted narrowly over the bar from the edge of the area.
McLarty got his personal reward for his afternoon’s toil on 72 minutes thanks to the talent of Hand. Faced with two defenders wide on the right Hand skipped past both in a flash and took the ball to the by line before placing a low cross into McLarty’s path, the Newry striker blasting his effort to the back of the net to finish the days scoring.
This was a good performance from Newry from start to finish. Speaking after the game Newry Reserve manager Gary Redpath stated that while pleased with the result he was happier to watch two young teams playing good passing football. Gary also had special mention for two players, Christopher Hughes who was returning to the squad after breaking his leg earlier in the season and for Micky Hastewell who he said hadn’t put a foot wrong in the game and who he named as Man of the Match.
Newry City AFC Reserves: Murphy, Scullion, McCaul, Hastewell, Anderson, Campbell, Hand, Edgar, Feehan, McLarty, Lundy. Subs: Mooney, Mulholland, Thompson, Hughes, Dillon.