“Just not good enough” was how Newry manager Darren Mullen summed up his team’s performance after Saturday’s defeat away to league leaders Ballymacash Rangers on Saturday. In a game where they found themselves a goal down in the first few minutes, a man down in the opening minutes of the second half when Kenny Kearns was sent off and with goal keeper Peter Murphy pulling off some fine saves to keep the deficit to just the one goal Newry had a glorious chance to snatch a point with the last kick of the game when Keith Johnston found himself inside the box with just the Ballymacash keeper to beat, the ball bobbling horribly in front of the Newry striker as he was about to pull the trigger. However it would have been a point which Mullen conceded his team would not have deserved given their performance “We can blame suspensions, injuries, some poor refereeing but simply it’s a game which we didn’t threaten enough in and therefore didn’t deserve much out of. Sometimes you have to grind out results and we have not been able to do that this season.”
Newry got off to the worst possible start when a simple through ball cut the central defence open giving the Ballymacash centre forward Kenny Campbell a shooting opportunity from the edge of the box which he took with ease placing his shot wide of Murphy to put the home side an early goal up. In a half short of goal mouth incident Newry didn’t register a shot until the half hour mark when a long Niall Crilly pass released Johnston down the right wing from where his first time shot skimmed over the Ballymacash crossbar. Campbell was giving the Newry defence all sorts of trouble and again slipped the defence on the 33rd minute, Murphy quickly off his line to narrow the shooting target and then dive to his left to push Campbell’s goal bound shot around his post. The nearest Newry came to scoring was from a free kick on 40 minutes after Johnston was taken down level with the edge of the penalty area, Kearns dead ball strike going right across the face of the home goal without the touch needed to put it into the net.
A blow at the start of the first half to go an early goal down Newry suffered a self inflicted wound early in the second when Kearns was shown a yellow card for an unnecessary foul in the middle of the park which was immediately followed by a second yellow and so a red card for remarks to the referee.
At this stage Ballymacash had their tails up and Newry were to rely heavily on Murphy to keep them in the game as first he tipped a James Guiney free kick over his cross bar followed by two excellent saves, diving low to push shots around his post on both occasions to deny Campbell a second goal.
In a bid to revive his team Mullen introduced Lowry, Barr and Walker during the 2nd half and the plan almost worked as Newry did get some strikes on goal in the final quarter of the game. On 70 minutes Barr received a throw in inside the opposition penalty area and closely marked by two defenders managed to turn and from the by line pull the ball back to Sean McMullan who was unfortunate to see his snapshot from the penalty spot deflected over the crossbar. On 82 minutes it was Barr’s chance to grab the equalizer as he received a Lowry pullback from the opposite side of the Ballymacash goal but in a packed penalty area Barr was forced into a first time shot which flashed the wrong side of the post. All of this preceded that last minute chance which fell to Johnston. Released by a long Conor McCaul pass Johnston had an unopposed run onto the ball with only the keeper to beat, alas it was the uneven surface which was to be decisive, the ball bobbling up and off the Newry man’s shin running harmlessly wide of the goal, in that moment encapsulating Newry’s day.
Newry team: Murphy, Crilly, McCaul, Patton, Edgar, Durnin, McMahon, Kearns, McMullan, Johnston, Smyrnaginas. Subs: Walker, Barr, Hastewell, Lowry, Crummy.