Timmy Grant was the hero for Newry City on Saturday grabbing the winning goal with only two minutes remaining in the top of the table clash with Banbridge Rangers at The Showgrounds. With a full haul of points from six games played Newry now move four points clear of the chasing pack but as usual Newry manager Darren Mullen continues with his policy of looking no further forward than the next game ‘With five minutes to go I was beginning to think it was going to be one of those days after the chances we had missed in the second half. We didn’t start the game well and needed to increase the tempo to trouble their defence. For the latter part of the first half and the majority of the second we were a lot better and looked the more likely to score. We have plenty of pace and movement in our team this year and that always gives us opportunities especially at home. Rather than start lumping the ball into the box for the last five minutes we stuck to our principles and got the rewards with a great finish from Timmy. There’s still a lot of work to be done but we are working hard to make sure we keep our good start going. It was also great to see Mark Lowry make his first appearance of the season after injury. His pace will cause a lot of problems for the opposition this season. Hopefully we can get another good crowd down this Friday night to keep supporting the lads.’
As the Newry manager said his side did not start well with Rangers the first to threaten after eight minutes when Mattie Dodds broke down the Newry left and sent in a low cross which Conor McCaul got to first to clear for a corner. The danger had not passed for the home side as Chris Chambers met the resultant corner at the back post but was unable to get enough power into his headed effort to beat the covering Thomas McCann on the Newry goal line. More than 20 minutes had passed before there was any danger to the Rangers goal, Stephen McCabe drilling a corner along the end line, the ball hitting the post and falling to McCaul but sticking between the Newry mans feet as he attempted to shoot. Just before the half hour mark Rangers were gifted an opportunity when a sloppy clearance by Newry was intercepted by Andy Mallen who spotted that Peter Murphy was a few yards off his line and fired in a dipping shot which clipped the top of the crossbar.
In the later stages of the half Newry gradually won control in the middle of the field with their best player on the day Thomas McCann in the holding position mopping up any loose ball allowing Carville and Walker to push forward which created two late chances. First McCaul again found the ball at his feet inside the six yard box after a McCabe free kick was not dealt with by the Rangers defence but once more McCaul was unable to get a clean strike to the ball. Then just before the whistle Chris McMahon picked out Walker on the edge of the box. Walker instantly flicking the ball into the path of Carville as he arrived into the penalty area only for Ivan Blevins in the Rangers goal to react first getting to the bouncing ball before the Newry man could get his shot in.
This was to be a personal contest which was to develop in the second half which attacking wise was dominated by Newry but for all but that late Grant winner it was Blevins who looked like coming out on top.
Having defended stoutly for the first 15 minutes of the second half Banbridge were bailed out on the hour mark when a long pass out of the Newry defence appeared to have been met with a perfectly timed run by Sean McMullan who now had the freedom of the Rangers half and only Blevins to beat only for the referee, who was some way behind play, judging that McMullan had strayed off side.
What followed developed into a personal battle between Carville and Blevins. On 68 minutes McCabe crossed to the back post where McMullan cushioned a header to Carville on the edge of the small box, Carville stretching to place his header out of Blevins reach, the Rangers custodian flinging himself to his right to claw the ball from behind him to safety. Minutes later and the home side had an even better chance. Again McCabe was the source picking the ball up inside his own half and using the over lapping McMahon to make room to cross, again picking out McMullan inside the box, the centre forward unselfishly setting up Carville who blasted a shot from close range which looked sure to hit the net only for Blevins again to produce a reaction save to deny Newry the opening goal. And with 10 minutes remaining McMullan again turned provider exchanging a short corner with Grant before firing a low cross along the edge of the Rangers goal evading everybody including Carville sliding in at the back post, the ball agonisingly out of his reach.
With so many chances going begging Newry introduced Mark Lowry on the right wing moving Grant into the box to double the strike force. And with time running out this proved to be a master stroke when the home side finally turned their domination into a goal. Niall Crilly who had pushed forward for much of the half curled a perfect ball into the danger area in front of Blevins which Carville at the front post allowed to travel to Grant at the back post, the newly positioned striker making no mistake placing the ball past Blevins much to the relief of the home support for the only goal of the game.
Newrys attention now turns to the Intermediate Cup with a home fixture against Amateur League side Shorts FC next Friday 23rd October, kick off 20:00.
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Crilly, McMahon, McCaul, Mullen, McCann, Walker, Carville, McMullen, McCabe, Grant. Subs: Lowry, Edgar, Sloan, Johnson, Mooney.