Newry City suffered their first league defeat of the season in an entertaining encounter against table toppers Donegal Celtic in Belfast on Saturday. A game which could have gone either way, Newry taking an early lead through the impressive Decky Carville but proceeded to miss good chances for that all important second goal and paid the price when DC snatched an equalizer on the stroke of half time, the home side slowly getting on top in the second half with the winning goal coming in the closing minutes from ex Camlough Rovers player Declan Monaghan.
Indeed, it was Monaghan who had the first good chance of the game after ten minutes when a sloppy cross field ball by Newry was intercepted, the ball falling into the path of Monaghan with only Peter Murphy to beat but found the Newry keeper quickly off his line to save. Newry’s reply should have served as a warning to DC, Jimmy Walker swinging in a dead ball for which Carville rose highest but was unable to get enough power on his header to beat Sean McIlhone.
The home side would quickly regret not heeding the warning as on the quarter hour mark the scenario was repeated when Carville won a free kick on the left wing. Up stepped Walker to float a cross to the penalty spot from where Carville with still loads to do powered his header back across goal over McIlhone and into the top corner of the DC net to give Newry the lead. Carville was a constant threat to the home side and soon created another chance for himself winning the ball wide on the left before driving into the box via a give and go with Mark Hughes, the return pass just too far in front of Carville allowing McIlhone to dive forward to bravely smother the ball.
On 40 minutes Newry had a great chance for a second. Starting with Chris McMahon winning the ball inside the Newry half the ball went wide to Marty Havern who burst down the wing before firing in a low cross which Hughes arriving in the box at speed attempted to side foot into the bottom corner of the goal, his effort flashing the wrong side of the post.
The game changed on 45 minutes. First the visitors had another great chance to double their advantage, Havern playing the ball wide to Carville who twisted and turned to make room for a shot come cross which hit the inside of the back post and rebounded straight into the keeper’s arms. Play swept to the other end when first a slip by a Newry defender allowed the ball in behind the defence somehow finding its way to Kevin Hughes who from around the penalty spot gave Murphy little chance for the equalizing goal.
The second half was to be an end to end affair with both teams creating chances. First up were the visitors, Havern and Hughes combining to set up Carville, the striker pitching his curling shot too close to McIlhone allowing the keeper to save easily. At the other end a period of pinball around the Newry box saw the ball fall to Paul Brown who forced Murphy into an excellent diving save.
Half chances came and went for both sides until Newry went close on 80 minutes from a familiar source, Walker once more crossing for Carville to win the aerial battle, unfortunate to see his effort rattle the crossbar. With time running out Monaghan was to have similar misfortune at the other end when he also got the better of an aerial duel only to rap the ball off the Newry cross bar with what looked likely to be the last chance for either side for to grab the winner. That was not the case however as with the game slipping into added time DC attacked down the left wing, the ball finding its way across goal to the back post to the unmarked Monaghan who made no mistake from close range to seal the points for the Donegal Celtic.
After the game Newry manager Darren Mullen reflected on a game his team could and probably should have got something from “This was a game we should never have lost and to lose in the manner we did makes it all the more frustrating. At 1-0 up we had clear chances to add to our lead and ended up paying the price for missing them. It took us a while to get going but once we did I thought we were the better team for the majority of the game. Both sides had chances and a draw would probably have been a fair result but to take the lead and then throw it away is disappointing. To concede both goals in the last minute of each half is something we need to learn from because as we have seen at this level if you switch off for a minute you will get punished. That said we are sitting second after five games and have made a good start to the season so we just need to pick ourselves up and work hard on the training pitch to make sure we bounce back in the right manner.
Newry City: Murphy, Mullen, King, Curran, McCaul, McMahon, Walker, McCann, Carville, Havern, Hughes. Subs: McArdle, McMullan, McCabe, Patton, Johnston.
Newry City next travel to play Fivemiletown on the 22nd October in the Intermediate Cup, KO 1:30pm. NCAFC travel club bus will leave The Stonebridge at 11:30.