At this stage of the season it’s all about winning vital league points and on Saturday in Tobermore Newry City secured three points which barring a freak turn of events will, at the very least, secure them a two leg play off for a place in next seasons NIFL Championship. And with six points still up for grabs Newry retain an outside chance of winning the league and with it automatic promotion. For that to happen however they must beat Limavady at home on Tuesday night, win away at Moyola on Saturday and hope that Donegal Celtic take something from their match at Limavady the same day. Before all of that Newry faced the challenge of a trip to Tobermore and they got themselves off to the best possible start. Little more than two minutes had elapsed on the clock when Jimmy Walker clipped a free kick into the box to match the early run of Mark McCabe. When McCabe was blatantly pushed to the ground by Nicky Hudson, referee Buchanan pointed straight to the spot and Jimmy Walker easily beat Limavady keeper Matthew McGaw to put Newry an early goal up.
Indeed, all the early chances came the way of the visitors. With ten minutes gone Kevin McArdle played a clever through ball into the channel for Decky Carville to run onto and shoot across goal, the ball recycled by Mark Hughes for Walker to try his luck from the edge of the box, his effort however not troubling McGraw. Minutes later and Walker sprayed the ball wide for Keith Johnston to get behind the Limavady defence and play a super ball across the six-yard box, McGraw diving forward to push the ball away with Mark McCabe waiting for a tap in.
On 20 minutes McCabe made a good chance for himself, collecting a long pass from John Boyle wide on the left before playing a give and go with Hughes to make his way to the edge of the box from where he really should have done better, failing to test the Tobermore keeper with his shot. On the half hour mark Newry got the cushion of a second goal in the simplest of fashion, Walker picking out the run of Boyle to the near post, Boyle losing his marker to place a header past McGraw to double the Newry advantage.
On the stroke of half time Newry almost put the game out of Tobermore’s reach. Once more starting with a Walker corner and with the Tobermore defence switched off Walker pulled the ball to Johnston in space on the corner of the box, Johnston taking a touch to tee up a volley which had McGraw sprawling across his line to tip the ball over his crossbar.
Rejuvenated by the half time break Tobermore were much better in the second half and got back into the game within minutes of the restart when from a corner Ryan Winton picked out the near post run of Nicky Hudson who gave Kieran Gordon little chance with a close range header. Newry almost came back with an instant reply, Carville rising highest to meet a Mark Hughes corner with a downward header which had McGraw scrambling across his goal to save.
In a half which contained little free flowing football a minute of magic from Newry on the hour mark almost restored their two-goal advantage. Starting with a driving run out of defence from Carville, the ball passed between Johnston and Walker to release Kevin McArdle wide behind the Tobermore defence, his ball across the face of goal met at the back post by Mark Hughes who looked sure to score only for a fine reaction save from McGraw.
On another day Mark McCabe might have grabbed a hat trick. On 70 minute’s he created another great chance for himself. Picking up the ball wide on the right, he played two one twos, first with McArdle, then with Carville leaving him with only McGaw to beat, the keeper quickly of his line to offer little sight of goal, McCabe unfortunate to see his shot sail the wrong side of the post.
Having created so many chances the final 20 minutes were an unnecessary nervous time for Newry. That said with Boyle his usual calming influence and Gordon assured in goal Tobermore were unable to create any clear chances with Newry going closest to claiming the fourth goal of the game, Hughes breaking down the left wing shaking of successive tackles to set up Walker on the edge of the box, his low shot saved by McGraw.
Content that his side had secured the points Newry manager Darren Mullen commented ‘This was a game of 2 halves in that we were dominant in the first half and poor in the second. We were well worth our 2 goal lead at half-time with a display of pace and movement. The message at the break was that we still had a lot of work to do but we gave them an opportunity to get back into the game with some poor marking. For the remainder of the second half we were wasteful in possession and had no real rhythm to our play. That said it’s all about 3 points at this stage of the season and I can’t be too critical of the players as they have been brilliant this season. We are now all but assured a play-off spot which is a magnificent achievement in our first year back in Irish league football but we have 2 games to go and want to finish with 2 wins.’
Newry now welcome Limavady to the Showgrounds on Tuesday night KO 8pm. Then on Saturday (29th) Newry City travel to play Moyola Park, Supporters bus departing from the Stonebridge at 12.45pm, all are welcome.
Tobermore Utd: Matthew McGraw, Stephen Lamont, Conal Darragh, Nicky Hudson, Shannon Crooks, Dean Stewart, Glen Law, Eoin Gillan, Hugo Batista, Gary Keane, Ryan Winton. Subs: Paul Keane, Matthew Brown, Ciaran McFaul, Tiarnan Flanagan, Ryan Winton.
Newry City AFC: Kieran Gordon, Kevin McArdle, Conor McCaul, Patrick Mooney, John Boyle, Thomas McCann, James Walker, Keith Johnston, Mark McCabe, Declan Carville, Mark Hughes. Subs: Sean McMullan, Timothy Grant, Marty Havern, Mark Patton, Neil Mullen.