Locally there’s no better place for football than The Newry Showgrounds under the floodlights and Newry City didn’t let an expectant crowd down on Friday night with an emphatic win over local rivals Loughall. Having started the season with two defeats Newry manager Darren Mullen made four changes to his starting line up with Stephen Hughes, Conor McCaul, Neil Mullen and Keith Johnston all starting. Coupled with these changes the Newry boys will have had Mullens harsh words after last week’s tame display still fresh in their memory and from the kick off it was evident that the home side were determined to gain the upper hand, Stephen Hughes carving out a gilt-edge chance for Mark McCabe with the game only a few minutes old, a chance which the centre forward really should have converted. That however was just about the only blemish on the night for McCabe as he caused havoc in the Loughall defence every time the ball came his way.
Indeed, it was McCabe who made the opening goal after 18 minutes, timing his run perfectly from just inside the Loughall half to sprint clear of the defence only to be dragged down inside the penalty area by the visiting keeper Gareth Buchannan who was spared a straight red card by referee Taylor. However, Stephen Hughes did administer punishment sending Buchannan the wrong way with a stuttered run up and a calm side foot finish to put Newry a goal up from the penalty spot.
Against the run of play Loughall almost grabbed an equalizer minutes later when Jordan Baker got his head to a free kick, Kieran Gordon relieved to see the ball sail over his crossbar. Newry were straight back on the attack, captain Chris McMahon who seemed to be in the right place any time there was any danger to the Newry goal venturing forward to release the overlapping Kevin McArdle who in turn teed up Stephen Hughes, Buchannan diving low to save. On the half hour mark the home side almost had an early contender for goal of the season, McCabe holding the ball up before laying it back into the path of Decky Carville who drilled in a shot from all of 25 yards which appeared destined for the top corner were it not for a fantastic save from Buchannan who got his finger tips to the ball to deflect it onto the underside of his crossbar and out.
Carville was causing lots of trouble to the visiting defence and with 35 minutes gone the big man, given an attacking midfield role did just that, picking the ball up mid-way inside the opposing half before running at the visiting defenders trying his luck from the edge of the box with a left foot shot which Buchannan was only able to block, Mark Hughes the first to react to the rebound rewarded with the simple task of placing his header into an open goal to double the Newry advantage.
Loughall had an opportunity to pull a goal back before the break when Newry failed to deal with a low corner swung into the near post, the ball bouncing around the penalty area before being turned goal wards, Newry grateful that McMahon had remained on the goal line in position to block the ball wide.
There was still time for another goal chance for the home side, McMahon again winning possession before cutting the defence with a ball for McCabe to run onto, his cross deflected on goal by Keith Johnston, the home side once again denied by Buchannan to keep the difference to two at the break.
That margin was extended on 55 minutes by a picture goal created and scored by the Hughes brothers, Stephen and Mark exchanging passes ending with Mark running onto the ball on the left side of the box still with loads to do to trouble the goal. That was not allowing for an audacious moment of magic, Hughes clipping the ball over a despairing Loughall challenge and the advancing Buchannan, the ball landing softly in the back of the net for a quality goal. On the hour mark Newry could have made it four, Carville and Stephen Hughes combing to set up McCabe for the goal which his performance deserved, McCabe’s low angled shot back across goal tipped round the post by the Loughall keeper.
For their part the visitors never gave up and pulled a goal back after 77 minutes, Jamie Douglas setting up Mark McConnell behind the Newry defence, McConnell placing the ball under Gordan for a neat finish. As may be expected for a team looking for its first win of the season Newry appeared to settle for the 3-1 score line and thanks to some stout defending from a defence which held solid under the direction of John Boyle Newry quite easily saw the rest of the game out for a deserved win which pleased manager Darren Mullen.
“The difference between last week’s performance and tonight’s was like night and day. We know we have the ability within the squad but if the attitude isn’t right then it counts for nothing. Thankfully the players responded to the criticism they received in the right manner and we ran out deserved winners. From the first whistle we looked hungry and were well deserving of our half-time lead. Our attacking play was obviously pleasing but the work we put in as a team off the ball was great to see and exactly what we demanded from them. The message for the second half was not to sit on our lead but to go at them again. That’s Hughesy’s fourth goal in three games and definitely the pick of them with what was a sublime finish. Loughall put us under pressure for a period towards the end which we expected at some point but our victory was well deserved. The players have now set a benchmark in terms of their work rate so that can’t drop for any other game. We didn’t get carried away with the two defeats and certainly won’t do the same after one win but need to build on it now. The crowd were brilliant tonight and hopefully they come out in their numbers again to support us in what is another big game for us against Dungannon Swifts on Tuesday night in the cup.”
Newry City AFC: Gordon, McArdle, McCaul, Mullen, Boyle, McMahon, S Hughes, Carville, McCabe, Johnston, M Hughes. Subs: Havern, Patton, McCann, Walker, Mackin.
Loughall FC: Buchanan, Montgomery, Rea, Stewart, Campbell, Dallas, Campbell, Ferguson, Baker, Mullen, Hoey. Subs: Taggart, Douglas, McConnell, Stretton, Robinson.
See photos below of our super Match Day Mascot Donncha Stacey!