Newry City AFC moved a step closer to winning the Mid Ulster Intermediate B league title at the first time of asking with a victory over rivals Valley Rangers in Kilkeel on Tuesday evening.
Played high up in the Mourne’s this game had lost some of its edge with Valley losing their preceding two league games meaning that a game which up until recently looked likely to be a title decider ultimately turned out to be a routine victory for the Newry side as they march relentlessly towards the title.
That’s not to say that the home side did not have their chances with Newry having their Man of the Match Peter Murphy to thank for some important saves. The first of these was perhaps the most critical when after 14 minutes he advanced quickly from his goal line to snuff out a Valley chance. The importance of this save quickly became evident as his team mates immediately swept the ball up field to grab the lead which they never relinquished.
As so often with Newry goals this season Mark Patton was involved laying Chris McMahons pass back to David Anderson who drove his shot from the corner of the box across Richard Baillie in the Valley nets and inside the far post to put Newry 1-0 up. Newry continued to press and almost doubled their advantage after 24 minutes when neat passing between McMahon, Patton and Jimmy Walker gave McMahon a sight of goal, the Newry man’s shot crashing into the Valley side netting. The home side responded with a good opportunity of their own David McMurray breaking down the Newry left and forcing another splendid save from Murphy at his near post to preserve the Newry advantage at half time.
The second half was only minutes old when Newry again threatened. With a free kick in a dangerous position some thirty yards from the Valley goal Sean Hand feigned to shoot but instead passed to Walker, closer to goal but with a worse angle, the Newry midfield maestro fizzing his shot wide of the post. The reprieve was to be only temporary as Newry did double their advantage on 53 minutes. Patton won the ball with his back to goal half way inside the Valley half. In an instant the Newry striker turned his defender and slipped a clever pass forward to Walker who in turn made ground before finding Neil Barr lurking on the right side of the home penalty area. Barr looked up and picked out Hand arriving at the back post, Hand sliding to finish to the far corner of the home net to put Newry 2-0 up.
Although down by two goals the home side were not out of the game. On 75 minutes McMurray again threatened floating in a left wing cross come shot which Paul McElroy had to head from under his own cross bar and from the resulting corner Thomas Graham fired in a shot which Murphy did well to get his body behind and hold on to.
Newry finished off any hope which the home side harboured with goal number three on 82 minutes. Hand picked up the ball inside his own half and skipped down the left wing before finding Shane Lundy. Lundy played the ball square to Walker who from the edge of the box cut the defence with one pass which Mark Lowry’s pace got him to before the Valley defender who could do little but bundle the Newry attacker over giving referee Gerry Murray no option but to award a penalty which Walker side footed home to leave the final score 3-0 for Newry.
Delighted with the win Newry manager Darren Mullen spoke after the game, ‘We knew this was going to be one of our toughest challenges to date against one of the main promotion rivals. This proved to be the case on a pitch not suited to our normal passing game. They had a few decent chances after we scored our first goal but our defence was outstanding for the remainder of the game allowing us to punish Valley on the break. This was a big win for us but we still have seven games to go and the players are aware that all the remaining teams need to be treated with the utmost respect. If our attitude and application is right then hopefully the rewards will come”
Newrys next game is at home on Friday 18th April @ 19:30hrs v Richill. There will be a fundraising quiz following the game starting at 9.45pm, all are welcome to come along and join in on the fun!
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Crilly, McVicker, McElroy, Annett, McMahon, Walker, Hand, Anderson, Patton, Barr, Subs: McCaul, Lowry, Lundy, McLarty, Martin.