Newry City tasted a league defeat for the first time this season at Valley Rangers on Tuesday night when a hat trick from Andy Graham helped the home side complete a 4-2 win. With Valley challenging near the top of the table Newry would have known that they would have to be at their best to get anything from the game and as manager Darren Mullen confirmed after the game the visitors did not turn up with their “A” game “We can’t expect to defend the way we did and win a game. The disappointing thing is that they didn’t have to work hard to get their goals. After starting poorly we responded in the right way but then made things difficult for ourselves with some basic defensive mistakes. We had most of the possession second half but credit to Valley they made things difficult for us and were hard to break down. This is our first league defeat of the season so there’s no need to panic. The measure of a team is how they respond to a defeat and I expect a reaction this Friday night.” Graham gave an early warning that he was going to be hard to handle in the 7th minute when he beat the Newry off side trap, the ball however forcing the striker wide which gave Peter Murphy the chance to narrow Grahams shooting angle and divert his shot for corner. Worse was to follow for the visitors when the resulting corner skimmed off a Newry head at the front post setting up Richard Hamilton arriving at the back post to power a header past Murphy to put Valley a goal up. Newry’s reply was swift, a fine passing movement down the Newry right wing culminating in a Keith Johnston cross which Decky Carville met with a perfect header from the penalty spot to level the score. Carville grabbed his 2nd goal on the half hour mark, a clever run to the near post perfectly timed to meet a Jimmy Walker corner, Carville using the pace on the cross to flick the ball past Nathan Teggarty before the Valley keeper had time to react. Newry failed to build on this however with Valley scoring twice before the break. First Andy Graham rose highest at the back post to head past Murphy to level the score’s and the same player got his second and Valleys third on 40 minutes when the Newry defence failed to deal with a low ball into their box, Graham making no mistake with his shot from close range leaving Valley 3-2 in the lead at the break.
Determined to hold onto their unbeaten league record Newry were much better in the second half. The second period was only minutes old when they created the first of many chances to level the scores. Sean McMullan held the ball up in a central position before playing the ball wide to Sean Hand. Taking the ball to the end line Hand pinged a low ball across goal alas too quickly for Johnston who’s lunge was inches away from turning the ball across the line. Minutes later and it was Thomas McCann’s turn to test Teggarty, picking the ball up on half way and making ground before firing in a shot which had the Valley keeper scrambling across goal, grateful to see the ball go the far side of his post by a small margin. At this stage Newry were camped in the Valley half but were unable to conjure up that one necessary clear cut goal chance. On 70 minutes Mark Patton who had been introduced into the Newry attack found himself wide on the left wing. With fleet of foot the big man nut megged his marker and put yet another dangerous ball across the Valley goal which Stuart Patterson did well to clear. Minutes later Patton was back in his more natural role rising highest at the back post to head a corner agonizingly wide. And as so often happens to a team who do not make the most of possession Newry paid the price when Graham who brought a threat to the Newry defence every time he was near the ball once more caused havoc in the Newry rear guard, his presence causeing a mix up between Murphy and his defenders. Graham quick to latch on to the mistake, round the keeper who had advanced to the edge of his box and calmly grab his hat trick to put the game and points out of Newry’s reach. To their credit the visitors didn’t give up and created one more chance which summed up their evening, McMullan setting up Patton for one last chance, his effort rapping the base of the post with Teggarty beaten.
Newry City AFC: Murphy, McMahon, Edgar, Curran, McCaul, Walker, McCann, Carville, McMullan, Johnston, Hand. Subs: Patton, Mullen, Grant, Mooney.