Newry City will look back on Saturdays Premier Cup quarter final away to Banbridge Rangers and wonder just how they are out of the competition. In a game in which Newry enjoyed long periods of possession and created chance after chance the simple reason is that they did not take any of those opportunities including a penalty which would have brought them level just before half time and were made to pay by a solitary Rangers goal tucked away from the penalty spot by Chris Chambers.
Newry made three changes for the game bringing in Durnin, Edgar and Johnston for Kearns, Walker and Brilly whilst in a strange turn of fate in the Banbridge goal, making his debut for Rangers, was Chris Davison who had just completed his transfer from Newry.
The opening period of the game was largely a midfield battle with little in the way of goal chances. The first fell to Mark Lowry after 20 minutes when he nipped in front of Ryan Gregg at the back post to meet a Keith Johnston cross on the volley, his effort not troubling Davison. Newry continued to probe and they soon created another chance when Lowry laid the ball back into the path of Niall Crilly. His first time cross was met by Mark Patton who’s headed effort again did not trouble the Rangers keeper.
At the other end Peter Murphy produced a brilliant reflex save when Jerry Philip’s shot took a nasty deflection Murphy reacting fast to tip the ball over his bar.
The next fifteen minutes were to decide the outcome of the tie. On the half hour mark a long Durnin pass picked out the speedster Keith Johnston who raced clear of the Banbridge defence and with only the advancing Davison to beat Johnston didn’t get enough power behind his lobbed shot which Davison gratefully collected. Banbridge made the most of this let off minutes later when winger Stuart Mallen got away from his marker only to be taken down inside the penalty area. Maximum retribution was taken by Chambers who sent Murphy the wrong way with a solid penalty to put Rangers 1-0 up.
Newry reacted well to this set back settling into the passing routine which has served them so well this season. They looked like equalising on 36 minutes when McMahon slipped a pass through to Patton who bore down on goal taking the ball around Davison alas unable to beat the narrow angle as his shot hit the side netting. An even better chance was soon to follow McMahon again the instigator laying his pass into the path of Lowry. Once inside the box Lowry turned back inside William Frazer who pulled the winger back, referee Alan Hayes awarding Newry a penalty kick. Having converted a spot kick last week Paul Donegan stepped up with confidence but was unfortunate to see his shot crash off the base of the post with Davison diving in the opposite direction.
Possession in second half belonged exclusively to Newry as they piled the pressure onto a home side who were content to sit in defence and thwart what Newry had to offer with two banks of committed defenders. Faced with this Newry stroked the ball about picking the moment to attack the first coming after 48 minutes when Lowry twisted and turned past his opposite number before unleashing a dipping drive which skimmed the crossbar with Davison beaten.
Durnin and McMahon were seeing lots of the ball for Newry with Durnin looking particularly composed in possession. On 53 minutes it was Durnin who picked out McMahon on the left wing, his cross fizzing low into the box forcing Davison into an excellent save, the rebound bouncing around the box but always just out of the reach of a Newry boot. Newry kept on probing and almost equalized through an unlikely source in Graeme Edgar. Again McMahon started the move slicing the home defence with a ball which gave Johnston a race with Davison which the keeper won clearing the ball to 40 yards out where it was met by Edgar. Having seen that Davison was out of his goal Edgar hit a perfect first time shot over the defence only to be denied by Ryan Gregg who had retreated to head the ball clear from under his own crossbar.
The final 15 minutes of the game saw a series of half chances for Newry but they simply could not get that extra yard of space with which they could really threaten Davison. As it turned out the big keeper denied his former colleagues with a string of saves from Durnin twice, Barr twice and Johnston as the clocked clicked to 90 minutes without that elusive equalizer coming.
After the game Newry manager Darren Mullen was not too despondent knowing that on another day his team will play worse and win “We had enough chances including the missed penalty to win the game in the first half so it’s disappointing to go out. I told the players at half time not to allow it to be one of those days but that’s how it turned out. We now have to pick ourselves up for next week’s game. We were forced into changes for this game but we have a big squad and the players that came in certainly did not let us down. We now look forward to an Intermediate Cup tie away to Ballinamallard next week”.
Newry travel on Saturday to Ballinmallard to play the Mallards Reserve side in the Intermediate Cup KO 1:30 pm. Newry City supporters bus will leave the Stonebridge at 11:00.
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Crilly, O’Connor, Donegan, McCaul, Durnin, McMahon, Edgar, Johnston, Patton, Lowry Subs: Barr, McMullan, Moan, Hastewell.
Picture courtesy of Brendan Monaghan Photography.