At this stage of the season it’s all about gaining league points and on Saturday Newry City secured another three at The Showgrounds with a professional if uninspiring performance against Queens. Some credit for that however must go to the visitors as for the second week in a row Newry found their well organised opponents difficult to break down, the home side with virtually all the possession in the opening 25 minutes but limited to speculative efforts from outside the box apart from one good chance for Mark McCabe who forced a fine save from Conor Lally with a half volley when well placed by Thomas McCann.
Although deserved, Newry’s opening goal owed a little to the weather, Lally’s clearance knocked down by the wind to Jimmy Walker before it got over the half way line. From there however Newry were clinical, Walker making ground before playing the ball wide to Keith Johnston, Johnston wasting no time before curling a low cross into the box for McCabe to slide onto diverting the ball expertly into the roof of the Queens net to put Newry a goal up.
Chances were thin on the ground for the rest of the half, Ian Curran unlucky with a glancing header from a Walker corner while Queens spurned a half chance to equalize with the half almost up, Matt Hughes with a low shot from the edge of the penalty area which Peter Murphy pushed wide of the Newry goal, Nathan Jones first to the rebound, but finding Murphy quickly back to his feet to narrow the target, shooting high and wide.
It was all Newry at the start of the second half, a goal scoring opportunity coming almost straight from the kick off, McCann splitting the Queens defence with a pass which left Johnston with Lally to beat, the Queens keeper quickly off his line to save. Newry came even closer to grabbing goal number two on 55 minutes, Kevin McArdle getting forward to place a cross to the near post which Mark Hughes won, unfortunate to see his downward header hit the base of the post.
The hosts had a big let off on the hour mark, a long ball straight down the pitch causing confusion between goalkeeper and defenders, Newry fortunate that the loose ball did not fall to a Queens player before being hacked clear.
The home side sealed the points on 70 minutes with a second McCabe goal, Hughes laying the ball into the path of the over lapping Stephen McCabe, on the run McCabe swung a pin point cross to the near post perfect for McCabe to rise highest at the near post to head into the top corner for his and Newry’s second and final goal.
‘This was a solid if unspectacular win and continues our good run of form. It’s fair to say Queens didn’t cause us many problems but in games where we have plenty of possession our final ball needs to better. That was the case in the first half although the conditions didn’t help either side. I made a few changes to the team and the shape which made us look a lot more solid defensively. Getting the clean sheet was pleasing as it’s something we have been emphasising in recent weeks. Mark McCabe is starting to fulfil his potential and has been leading the line superbly in recent games. That said he will be the first to acknowledge the work the lads do in behind him to create his chances. We have put ourselves back in the mix for a top six position but know how quickly things can change and the game against Newington this Thursday will be a good test for us.’
Newry’s next match is on Thursday 16th Feb against Newington, kick off at 7.45pm at Seaview, Shore Rd, Belfast. Newry City travel club bus will leave The Stonebridge at 6.15pm.
Newry City AFC: Murphy, S McCabe, McArdle, Curran, Mooney, Patton, Walker, McCann, M McCabe, Johnston, Hughes. Subs: Carville, Grant, McKeown, Taylor, King
Queens: Lally, Plant, Gibson, Harper, McManus, Hannon, Tumilty, Keenan, Rooney, Jones, Hughes. Subs: Orr, Keenen, O’Hare, Briers, Brown.
Photographs Courtesy of Brendan Monaghan Photography.