Newry City Reserves kept alive their hopes of the Mid Ulster Reserve League title with a hard fought 2-1 win on Wednesday evening at home to Valley Rangers Reserves. A game which started off slowly burst into life after 25 minutes, Newry’s Jordan King pushing forward from left back before swapping passes with Sean McMullan and drilling a shot from 30 yards which the Valley keeper William Charleton did well to tip onto the post. In a strange twist, seconds later play immediately swung to the other end, Valleys Robert McCullough making room for himself on the left wing before he also tried his luck from distance, also unfortunate to see his shot smack the upright.
The home side were gradually getting on top and almost broke the deadlock on the half hour mark, dead ball specialist Paulis Smaryginas hitting a free kick from 35 yards which swerved and dipped on its way to goal, Charleton producing a fine save pushing the ball over his cross bar for a corner. The danger however hadn’t passed, Quinns corner falling to Chris McMahon who had two efforts on goal blocked before the ball was scrambled clear. With 40 minutes on the clock and somewhat against the run of play Valley grabbed the opening goal, Jonathon McMath beating Marty Marron with a low shot from the edge of the box.
The lead however was not to last until half time, McMahon pitching a free kick into the feet of centre forward McMullan, the big man completely losing his marker with a Cryuff turn before laying the ball across the face of goal giving Neil Mullen the simple task of placing the ball past Charleton to leave the score level at the break.
The home side were almost caught cold in the early moments of the second half. With a free kick in the centre circle Valleys Andrew McCoy spotted the chance to take the Newry defence out of the game with a long free kick into the path of McMath who looked sure to score only for a superb sliding block from Mullen. The home side made the most of this reprieve on 50 minutes when King again strode forward, his run taking him inside the Valley penalty area where he was halted by a cynical trip, referee McArdle pointing straight to the penalty spot. With penalty king McMullan stepping up to the spot kick there was only going to be one result, McMullan placing the ball inside the post out of the reach off Charleton for what turned out to be the winning goal.
There was however still a lot of football to be played, Valley who held an outside chance to win the league giving their all to get back into the game but were unable to break a stubborn Newry defence in which the central pair of Gerard Mooney and Neil Mullen stood out. And with the visitors committed to getting back in the game it was obvious that gaps would appear for Newry to close out the game, in the closing moments both McMullan and Thomas McCann passing on chances to seal the win but fortunately for the home side it mattered not as time ran out for a Valley comeback, referee McArdle calling time with Newry leading 2-1.
Relieved to secure the 3 points which keeps his side in with a chance of league glory Newry manager Gary Redpath was also keen to keep his players mind on the final game on Saturday week “That result keeps us in the hunt for the title but there’s nothing won yet. I have left the lads in no doubt that they need to remain focused and to bring the form they have been showing into our last game against fellow title challengers Coagh. Tonight’s win was based on standing up to the physical challenge of a very good Valley team and the foundation for this was led by our centre back pairing of Gerard Mooney and Neil Mullen and with Mully holding the ball up superbly we always had an outlet to get our passing game going. Going a goal behind I thought we fully deserved the win and it could have been more if we had been more clinical. However, I would have taken a single goal win before the game and now we will look forward to the Coagh match.”
Newry Reserves final game of the season is scheduled for Saturday 22nd April at home to Coagh kick off 2:15pm.
Newry Team: Marty Marron, Jordan Coyle, Jordan King, Gerard Mooney, Neil Mullen, Chris McMahon, Josh Durnin, Ryan Quinn, Sean McMullan, Paulis Smaryginas, Thomas McCann. Subs: Marcus McKeown, Cian Feehan, Shealan Fegan, Gavin Conn, Brian Hobden.