“Another step along the way” was how Newry manager Darren Mullen described his teams win over Tandragee Rovers at The Showgrounds on Tuesday night. That however doesn’t tell the story of a game Newry dominated from start to finish, fell to a sucker punch late in the first half to go a goal down but fought back to claim the points with two late goals to stretch their lead at the top of Mid Ulster Intermediate football.
The home side showed their intent from the first minute, Decky Carville winning an aerial battle for a kick out, the ball falling to Sean McMullan who quickly moved the ball out of his feet to make space to chip Richard McGivern in the Tandragee goal, the ball falling the wrong side of the cross bar.
The home side created an even better chance minutes later, a move starting with Graeme Edgar at left back feeding Decky Carville inside the Tandragee half. Driving at the defence Carville played a one two with McMullan and now with a clear sight of McGivern chose to go for power, the ball clipping the top of the crossbar on its way over.
Newry continued to search for the opening goal, Neil Mullen moving forward to win a Chris McMahon free kick, his header back across goal almost turned in by Keith Johnston from an acute angle.
Kevin McArdle was next to try his luck for Newry, neat interplay between Jimmy Walker and McMullan creating a shooting opportunity for the midfielder who drilled his shot over the Tandragee crossbar.
Totally against the run of play the visitors stunned the home support with a cleverly worked opening goal, Mark Bicker pitching a ball through the centre of the Newry defence which Johnny Black ran onto to lob the advancing Peter Murphy to give his side a lead to defend in the second half.
And defend they had to as Newry went in search of the equalizer. Straight from the resumption McArdle broke down the left, looped a ball to the back post which Sean Hand headed back across goal, McGivern taking the ball off the head of McMullan.
The home side remained patient attempting to pick their way through the Tandragee rear guard. On 55 minutes Jimmy Walker played the perfect defence splitting pass which Johnston ran onto only to be bundled off the ball by some last ditch defending. Minutes later and Johnston was put through once more, this time his low cross was cut out by a Tandragee defender fortunate to turn the cross inches outside his own post.
Newry finally got the break through on 75 minutes when a Walker corner was punched back to him by McGivern. Now from a better angle Walker had time to pick his man swinging in a low cross which was met with a sweet volleyed finish from the edge of the six yard box by Newrys ace goal scorer McMullan.
Now after the winner Newry thought they had found the answer on 80 minutes when Neil Mullen rose highest to power a header past McGivern only for the referee to call play back ruling that Mullen had pushed a defender as he jumped.
The set back was only temporary as the home side grabbed the winner with time running out with a beautifully crafted goal. With his back to goal wide on the right Hand flicked a low pass inside to McMullan and spun down the line. The big man had read the script and turned the ball into the space behind the Tandragee defence for which Hand, Newrys best player on the evening, won the race. Determined not to let another chance go Hand took the ball to the end line before looking up and picking out Walker as he arrived inside the box, Walker making no mistake with a firm side foot finish to seal a deserved but hard earned three points for Newry.
Newry manager Darren Mullen was in buoyant mood after the match “The fans are certainly getting their money’s worth this season in terms of comebacks and late drama. The character of this team certainly cannot be questioned and they know to play right until the final whistle. Tandragee had one decent attack in the first half and scored from it which was disappointing. We were playing ok and had chances to score but although we were controlling most of the play we needed to lift the pace.
The second half was a lot better and we could have scored earlier than we did. What we don’t do this year is panic and with the pace and movement we have we continued to test their defence. Even with 25 minutes to go I knew we would get chances and it is a credit to the players that they don’t resort to kicking the ball aimlessly into the box. Both goals were well worked and no more than we deserved. It’s just another step along the way and there is still a lot of football to be played but are we on a good run of form. What we won’t allow is complacency to set in and will prepare the players in the right manner for our away game at Lower Maze.”
Newry City AFC: Murphy, McMahon, Edgar, Curran, Mullen, Walker, McArdle, Carville, McMullan, Johnston, Hand Subs: Patton, McCann, McCabe, Mooney, McVerry.