Newry City started off the post-split group of matches with a commanding performance away to Banbridge Town on Saturday. Having dropped five points during the regular season to their local rivals the Newry boys would have seen this fixture as a chance for some retribution and right from the kick off Newry were in complete control, twice within the opening ten minutes the visitors had chances for the opening goal. With just three minutes on the clock Mark Hughes crossed for Keith Johnston to set Decky Carville with a shooting opportunity on the edge of the box, Carville’s shot taking the slightest of deflections to steer it the wrong side of the post. And minutes later Newry had another opportunity, Kevin McArdle pitching a free kick into the Banbridge box, the ball falling to Mark McCabe who drilled his shot over the crossbar.
Banbridge failed to heed the warning and paid the price after ten minutes with a goal created by Thomas McCann, the Newry midfielder picking the ball up in the centre of the park before curling a pass forward to Johnston. Continuing his run into the box McCann took the return pass losing his marker with a clever turn before picking out Mark McCabe at the back post, McCabe finding the room to side foot the ball cross back across goal into the opposite corner of the net for a neat finish.
If there was a weakness in the Newry performance it was that they failed to turn their superiority into goals, another 20 minutes slipping by on the clock before the home goal was again threatened, Hughes dwelling on the ball mid-way inside the Banbridge half before cutting the defence with an incisive pass which put Mark McCabe through on goal, the Newry striker looking sure to score only to be foiled by Andrew Cullen who was quickly off his line to deflect the ball for a corner. For their part Banbridge were unable to make anything meaningful happen in and around the Newry box with Mark Patton winning everything in midfield and the John Boyle and Paddy Mooney partnership providing ample protection for Kieran Gordon meaning that referee Monaghan called an end to the half with Newry leading 1-0.
The second half started with an early chance for Newry, Mark Patton winning another aerial battle powering a header to the half way line where Carville laid the ball into the stride of Hughes. With the whole half in front of him it was now a foot race between Hughes and Banbridge defender Stephen Green, Green showing great determination to match Hughes for pace before sliding to block his shot inside the box. All the chances were coming Newry’s way, the best when Hughes found Patton on the edge of the box, Patton spinning his marker to give him a clear sight of goal, Cullen once more quickly of his line to save with his legs.With 70 minutes on the clock Newry grabbed the important second goal. Again, starting with a defensive header, this time Mooney winning the ball in the air finding Johnston with his back to goal. Instinctively Johnston hooked the ball over his head perfect for the run of Mark McCabe who started inside his own half and in an instant found himself with only Cullen to beat, once more the Newry striker remaining composed guiding the ball with the side of his foot into the roof of the Banbridge net for a superb finish. Stirred into life the home side created their best chance of the game, Conor Downey winning possession wide on the left before cutting inside and curling a shot to the far post, Kieran Gordon diving to touch the ball around his post. The Newry reply was swift, Mark McCabe bringing the ball forward, Carville picking out the clever run of Hughes to the back post with a perfect ball which Hughes met on the volley, the ball dipping as it flew over the junction of post and crossbar. With time running out Newry introduced Sean McMullan and in a matter of minutes the big man done what he does best, score goals. Again, Carville was involved, taking the ball from Marty Havern before finding Johnston wide on the left. When Johnston’s shot was deflected up in the air it was McMullan alert to the possibility watching the flight of the ball before placing his shot inside the post for goal number three to wrap up the points for Newry. Relieved to get the first post-split game behind him with a win Newry manager Darren Mullen was only looking as far as the next game “This was a super performance from start to finish. We were dominant throughout the game and well worth the victory. Considering Banbridge had taken five points of us this season we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game. Our work rate within the past three games has been exceptional and the players now realise that if they keep that up for 90 minutes we will get our rewards. We looked strong both defensively and in attack with Thomas McCann and Mark Patton winning a lot of ball in midfield. At 1-0 there’s always a chance they could have got back into it but we very rarely looked in danger of conceding and thankfully we added the extra goals our play deserved. Nothing has changed after today’s results in that we still must win all our remaining games to have a chance of success this season and we now look forward to Donegal Celtic on Tuesday evening”
Newrys next match is on Tuesday night at the Showgrounds v Donegal Celtic, KO 7.45pm. On Saturday 22nd Newry City travel to Tobermore, the supporters bus will be departing at 12.45 sharp, all are welcome.
Man of the Match: Mark Patton
Newry City AFC: Kieran Gordon, Stephen McCabe, Kevin McArdle, Paddy Mooney, John Boyle, Mark Patton, Thomas McCann, Mark Hughes, Keith Johnston, Mark McCabe, Declan Carville. Subs: Marty Havern, Conor McCaul, Sean McMullan, Timmy Grant, Jimmy Walker.