Despite conceding a third minute goal and playing virtually the complete second half with ten men Newry City will still look back on Saturdays score draw against neighbours Banbridge Town as two points dropped rather than a point saved. With both sides probably fielding short of their 1st choice eleven the visitors got off to the best possible start when Conor McCaul chose to head a high aimless ball into the Newry half back to his keeper only to see his header fall short straight to Conor Downey who calmly lobbed the advancing Peter Murphy to give his side an early lead.
While this early goal advantage was the cue for Banbridge to set up camp inside their own half the home side, despite dominating possession, found it difficult to conjure up many goal scoring chances. On 15 minutes Decky Carville picked the ball up on the half way line before driving through the first line of Banbridge players and playing the ball wide to Keith Johnston, Johnston the centre of a three man Newry attacking line stepping inside and trying his luck from the edge of the penalty area thwarted by Stephen Cairnduff in the visitor’s goal. Minutes later and Johnston was very nearly in on goal, Jimmy Walker dinking a pass over the defence for Johnston to run onto, his first touch letting him down allowing the ball to roll through to Cairnduff.
There followed a period where Newry were forced into lateral passes in the middle of the pitch as Banbridge closed ranks. However the home sides frustration was interrupted on the 36th minute when Johnstons fleet of foot inside the box forced a rash challenge from a Banbridge defender, referee Barry Monaghan pointing immediately to the penalty spot from where Walker maintained his 100 % record with his 4th penalty conversion of the season.
Buoyed by this goal Newry piled forward and almost paid the price when the ball broke up field to Downey, he in turn made ground before crossing to Andrew Wilson who’s header back across goal was cleared from the goal line by Chris McMahon who had made ground to cover. Newry had 1 more chance before the half Mark Hughes and Johnston combining on the left wing to give Stephen McCabe a shooting opportunity, Cairnduff quickly off his line to block with his legs to leave the score level at the break.
The home side were straight on the attack as the second half started Neil Mullen finding Mark McCabe with a long pass over the defence, McCabe pulling the ball back for Walker to swing a cross into the box as Carville arrived, his powerful header skimming the crossbar. The home side had an ever better chance moments later when, with Walker about to put a free kick into the box, a Banbridge attempt to catch the Newry players offside went badly wrong leaving a line of home players trying to get on the end of Walkers whipped cross, the ball alas just out of their reach.
On 50 minutes the home side were reduced to ten men when referee Monaghan judged that Mark Hughes had pulled back Wilson as the pair raced for the ball on the Banbridge right wing. Having received a yellow card in the first half this second infringement was deemed enough for referee Monaghan to brandish a second yellow card and so a red to Hughes which should have put his team on the back foot.
However as so often happens the ten men were galvanised with Newry dominating almost the entire second half, Banbridge without a shot in the 2nd period until the 82nd minute when Ashley Gregg blasted over Murphy’s bar when well placed. Before that the home side failed to convert many chances the best coming on the hour mark when Walker and McCabe combined on the right wing to carve out a fine chance for Johnston who from five yards out shot straight at Cairnduff who produced a fine reaction save. Although that was the home sides best chance Carville was also unfortunate with a number of chances twice rising highest only to head over and then with time running out finding the Banbridge side netting from an acute angle.
With Newry unable to carve out a second clear scoring chance the visitors were able to run time out to secure the draw much to the frustration of Newry manager Darren Mullen “It feels like a defeat to be honest after playing so well. Considering we went down to 10 men so early in the second half we dominated the whole second half and looked like the only team likely to win the game. We gifted them a goal and didn’t start the game particularly well but once we got into our stride we had them pinned back for most of the game. I can’t fault the players for effort and only for some poor finishing we would have won the game even with 10 men. It shows the progression we have made that we are disappointed with a draw but we have made a very good start to the season and need to keep the unbeaten run going.’
Newry City’s next two games are also at The Showgrounds. First up on Tuesday night, 20th September Newry entertain Glenavon in the Mid Ulster Cup, KO 7:45 pm. Then on Saturday it’s the turn of Tandragee Rovers to visit The Showgrounds in the quarter final of the Bob Radcliffe cup, KO 2pm.
Newry City: Murphy, McCaul, Hughes, Patton, Mullen, McMahon, walker, Carville, Johnston, S McCabe, M McCabe, Subs: McMullan, Havern, King, Smith, McCann
Banbridge Town: Cairnduff, J Wilson, Acheson, Thompson, Lavery, King, McCartan, Lavery, A Wilson, Moffatt. Subs: Gregg, Taggart, Pedlow, McParland, Greave