Newry City AFC 2 Valley Rangers 1
Newry opened the 2015-6 Intermediate A season with a home game against newly promoted Valley Rangers with a decent sized crowd turning up at the Showgrounds for what proved to be an entertaining game.
With Valley on a high after their great promotion season out of Intermediate B, Newry would have looked to start strongly and try to dent their visitors’ confidence. And things couldn’t have gone better for City on this front as they raced out of the blocks and took the lead with barely a minute on the clock. Keith Johnston crossed from the left to Sean McMullan in the area and the big striker turned and shot past Richard Baillie, the Rangers keeper getting a hand to the ball but unable to keep it out.
Any thoughts that Newry were set for a comfortable evening were, however, soon dispelled as the visitors steadied themselves and quickly gained a foothold in the game. Valley were playing with a packed midfield to close off the space for the home side but they showed that they posed a real goal threat themselves, primarily through the conduit of former Newry striker Andy Graham up front.
On six minutes, Graham got on the end of a ball down the channel and outpaced Conor McCaul, before cutting inside and bearing down on the Newry goal. Peter Murphy was alert to the danger and got down well to block Graham’s shot at the near post. Minutes later, Graham turned provider with a neat ball to Matthew Johnston, but Murphy again came to Newry’s rescue with another save.
The threat was obvious and the equaliser duly arrived on fifteen minutes. Andy McMath’s cross didn’t appear that dangerous at first, but Ryan Stevenson nipped in to apply a light touch and divert the ball to the corner of the Newry net.
The game settled down after that with little in the way of chances at either end before both sides had decent efforts from set piece plays around the half hour mark. First up, Aaron Parke got on the end of a free kick to deliver a bullet header that Murphy did well to tip over before, at the other end, a corner for Newry was met by the head of Ian Curran but his goal bound effort was cleared off the line by a Valley defender.
Newry picked up the pace as the half drew to a close and created a couple of half chances, the best of which saw Keith Johnston’s effort deflected wide. Nonetheless, the home side could have no complaints with the half time score.
The second moiety saw a much improved display from Newry and they were on the front foot from the outset. On 51 minutes, Conor Sloan’s cross was chested down by Sean McMullan, but the striker’s rasping effort went just over the bar. Newry were on top and Johnston twice went close to a goal. The best of his efforts came after a good run and cross from Stephen McCabe, Johnston’s shot narrowly missing the target.
Newry replaced Timmy Grant with Declan Carville just past the hour mark and he pushed up to support McMullan and Johnston in a dangerous looking forward line. The newly arrived sub almost had an instant impact. This time Johnston was the provider with a delicious cross that got a light touch from McMullan and Carville, looking sure to score at the back post, was somehow off target from close range. The deflection probably did him no favours, but things would fall a whole lot kinder for him later in the evening.
Before that, Newry might have been forgiven for thinking that it wasn’t going to be their night as the clock ticked down and the elusive second goal had not arrived. Indeed Valley showed that they still posed a threat on 75 minutes when they went close from a corner, only for Chris McMahon to clear off the line. That would be as good as it got for the visitors as Newry finally made the breakthrough, two minutes later. Carville was the instigator as he ran at the visiting defence, and this time a slight deflection worked in his favour as he got between two defenders inside the box. The striker looked up and spotted Sean McMullan free inside him. Carville pulled the ball back to McMullan, and no better man to slot to the corner of the net and spark relieved celebrations amongst the home support.
McMullan had his second wind now and he was taking on the Valley defence with some outrageous skill that really deserved a hat trick. It wasn’t to be, however, and McCabe went closest to an insurance strike, only to be denied by a fine save from Baillie at the near post. There was an extended period of injury time to endure for the home support, but little in the way of real scares as they saw out the game and secured an important three points to kick off their league campaign.
Link to highlights:
MOTM: Sean McMullan
Newry City AFC: Peter Murphy, Ben Wilson, Conor Sloan, Conor McCaul, Ian Curran, Chris McMahon, Thomas McCann (Jimmy Walker), Timmy Grant (Declan Carville), Sean McMullan, Keith Johnston, Stephen McCabe. Subs not used: Josh Durnin, Stephen Wylie, Paulius Smaryginas
Valley Rangers: Richard Bailie, Raymond Hanna, Steven Patterson (Johnny Newell), Stuart Patterson, Aaron Parke, Kenny Graham, Ryan Stevenson (Andy McCoy), Jonny Cranston, Andy Graham, Andy McMath, Matthew Johnston (Jason McCulla). Sub not used: Curtis Parke.
Photographs Courtesy of Brendan Monaghan