Two points dropped or a point gained was the question after Newry City’s 2-2 draw at home to Limavady on Friday night. As ever with such conundrums there are valid arguments for both views. Perhaps with half time approaching and their side 2 goals down the Newry supporters would have grabbed a point with both hands. However, that outlook would have changed on 43 minutes when a sublime ball from Jimmy Walker found Decky Carville behind the Limavady defence. Still with loads to do Carville made scoring look easy, side footing the bouncing ball over the advancing keeper and into the far corner of the net to put Newry back in the game. Bolstered by that lifeline and no doubt roasted by the Newry management when back in the dressing room it was a different performance from the home side after the break, enjoying about 90% possession creating enough chances that by the end that most supporters were left to rue that these were perhaps points dropped.
All of that however came after a 1st half during which Newry never scaled the heights of previous weeks. Indeed it was the visitors with most of the attacking play in the opening 15 minutes during which they forced a succession of corners. It was from one of these that they opened the scoring, Paul Owens corner helped on at the near post by Limavady defender John Wall. With the home side unable to clear the danger it was Wall who latched onto the loose ball stabbing it past Stephen Maguire to put Limavady a goal up. Although not delivering their usual high tempo brand Newry still made a few chances, Kevin McArdle taking every opportunity to push forward delivering dangerous balls into the box, the home side alas unable to make the most of the opportunities.
Limavady doubled their advantage after 29 minutes thanks to a contentious penalty, a decision made by referee Peter McGrath in conjunction with his linesman Andrew Butler who both judged that Carville had fouled Limavady centre forward Hume contrary to the opinion of most present and video evidence which showed that Carville had nicked the ball from Hume’s toe with little contact made with the attacker. That however mattered little to Limavady or Hume who dusted himself down to place the spot kick into the corner of the net despite Maguire’s valiant attempt to save. No doubt aggrieved Newry responded in the best way although it did take until the brink of half time before Carville grabbed that precious goal and it was evident straight from the restart that Newry, led by Carville, meant business in the 2nd half. However. with Limavady retreating to the Newry half and determined to waste every second possible. clear cut chances were hard to come by. On the hour mark Keith Johnston raced clear of the Limavady defence, momentarily appearing to be through on goal only to be forced wide, his cross ball into the box hacked clear by the Limavady keeper. Newry kept probing and really should have equalised on 70 minutes, Carville nodding down a Walker free kick to Johnston who hit the base of the post with Wells beaten, Stephen Hughes falling as he struck the rebound, the ball beating the crossbar from close range.
The home sides dominance got due reward on 77 minutes when a rare Limavady attack was crowded out by the Newry defence leaving room up field for their forwards to exploit. Again Carville was involved, controlling a long pass from John Boyle on his chest while turning to once more release Johnston. While the winger was disposed he had done enough to unsettle the Limavady backline, the ball falling perfectly for Jimmy Walker who smashed his shot from the edge of the box too powerfully for Limavady keeper Paul Wells who got both hands to the ball but was unable to stop it from nestling inside the post.
It was now a matter if Newry could kick on and snatch a winner or if all out Newry attack would leave them vulnerable at the back. In the end neither happened and so the game ended in a draw which ensured that Newry’s unbeaten run now stretches to 9 games with manager Darren Mullen immediately setting his sights on next Friday night’s game at Dergview “Whilst it was a chance missed to move closer to the leaders it’s a game that we could easily have lost due to our poor first half performance. We didn’t look anything like the side that beat Ballyclare last week and started the game with a severe lack of intensity and purpose. As I’ve said on numerous occasions if you don’t keep your standards up in this league you will be punished and that’s exactly what happened. That said their second goal was never a penalty and as per several performances from the match officials this season it certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The second half was a different affair where we dominated possession but just couldn’t find a winner. Limavady did what plenty of teams will do and have done this season in keeping men behind the ball but it’s up to us to break them down. For that to happen we needed pace and movement which didn’t happen in the first half but was better in the second. Two months ago I doubt if we had been 2 0 down we may not have come back and may well have been happy with a draw but we are a completely different team now and our disappointment shows how far we have progressed. That’s 9 games we are unbeaten now and by anyone’s standards that’s an impressive run. What we need to do now is learn from our mistakes and take the second half positives into next Friday night’s game away to Dergview.”
Newry City’s next game is on Friday 1st December away to Dergview. Then on Tuesday 5th December Newry host Banbridge Town in the Semi Final of the Mid Ulster Cup, kick off 7:45.
Newry City: Maguire, McArdle, M Hughes, King, Boyle, McCann, Walker, Carville, McCabe, Johnston, S Hughes, Subs: Havern, McKeown, Cunningham, Richmond, Mullen.