Crusaders Reserves 3 – 0 Newry City Reserves (07/11/18)
Newry City Reserves travelled to North Belfast in the hope of continuing their recent good league form, but were brought back down to earth with a resounding thud at Seaview.
Buoyed by the inclusion of Philip Lowry, Gary Thompson and Ross Holden in midfield, the home side started the brighter of the two sides, with Newry keeper Lewis Hunter coming to the rescue twice early on with saves from close range to keep the home side at bay.
Newry struggled for much of the opening 20 minutes to get out of their own half and had Zach Annett and Jordan Mackey to thank for some great last ditch defending. The first goal seemed inevitable and it duly arrived in the 25th minute when a wonderful strike from a full 35 yards by Lowry sailed into the top corner past the despairing hand of Hunter.
By the 30th minute it was two, when Hunter’s pass out to full back Thomas McGreevey was intercepted by centre forward Lumi Kanwei who slotted past the Newry keeper, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Stung by this further setback, Newry tried hard to get back into the game and twice went close to reducing the deficit late in the first half. Firstly, in the 42nd minute, Keith Johnson’s lob over the advancing keeper landed on the roof of the net. Then on the stroke of half time Mattie Taylor saw his superb 25 yard free kick canon off the underside of the bar, before being scrambled to safety.
The second half was much better from a Newry perspective with Johnson and Ryan Duffy both seeing efforts cleared off the line as the away side chased the game. But in doing so, you always leave yourself that bit more open and in the final moments of the game Kanwei got his second of the night, getting in between Mackey and Hunter to pounce and put the game beyond Newry’s reach.
Newry City Reserves: Lewis Hunter, Leigh Crooks, Zach Annett, Jordan Mackey, Thomas McGreevy, Matthew Taylor ©, Josh Durnin, Lee Hutchinson, Keith Johnston, Mark McCullough, Ryan Duffy
Subs: Kealan Morgan, Tiernan O’Reilly, James Irwin, Jervis McCaul
Newry City Reserves 2 – 2 Cliftonville Olympic (16/11/18)
Newry City Reserves hoped to put their previous week’s disappointment behind them against a resurgent Cliftonville Olympic at the Showgrounds on Wednesday night.
Bolstered by the addition of some of the first team squad, Newry got off to the worst possible start when right from kick off, centre forward Thomas Maguire stole possession and shot past Lewis Hunter, make it 1-0 to the visitors.
The visitors were presented with a golden opportunity to double their advantage in the fifth minute when they were awarded a penalty, after Neil Mullen was adjudged to have tripped Maguire as he advanced into the box. From the resulting spot kick, Maguire duly obliged to make it 2-0.
Newry gradually began to impose themselves on the game, but their failure to convert numerous goal scoring opportunities, coupled with an inspired goalkeeping display in the Cliftonville goal by Ethan McGrath, saw the North Belfast side maintain their two goal cushion.
Cliftonville were dealt a setback in the 37th minute when midfielder Peter McKiernan was shown a straight red card for a kick on Zach Annett. With the Reds now reduced to 10 men, Newry continued to ask questions of the Cliftonville defence, and after a sustained spell of pressure, the hosts finally made the breakthrough on the stroke of half-time. Skipper TJ Hughes bundling home from close range, after a fine cross from the left by Noel Healy.
The introduction at half time of Newry substitute Sokei John for the injured Neil Mullen almost paid instant dividends, when his first time shot grazed the outside of the post in the 47th minute. This was to be a constant theme for the rest of the half, with Cliftonville doing their best to hang on to their one goal lead, whilst Newry threw all of their energies into attack.
Chances for Crooks, Durnin, Hutchinson, McArdle and Sokei John were missed and the night seemed to have an air of inevitability about it. That changed though in the 75th minute, when, after a neat interchange of play between Jimmy Walker and Kevin McArdle, the latter’s cross across the 6 yard box was slid home by Sokei John.
The pulsating second half didn’t end there as Newry went in pursuit of the winner, but credit must go to McGrath in the Reds goal, as he kept out two ferocious drives from TJ Hughes and tipped a cracking left footed effort from Kevin McArdle onto the crossbar.
Right at the final whistle Newry had the ball in the net again, but the goal was ruled out for an infringement in the build-up and the game ended all square.
Newry City Reserves: Lewis Hunter, Kevin McArdle, Noel Healy, Jordan Mackey, Neil Mullen, Mark McCullough, Josh Durnin, James Walker, TJ Hughes ©, Leigh Crooks, Zach Annett
Subs: Lee Hutchinson, Sokei John, Ryan Duffy, Jervis McCaul, Kealan Morgan
Commenting on the two games, Newry Reserves boss Ronan Casey admitted that while he was disappointed with the level of performance away to Crusaders, he was delighted with the response from the players against Cliftonville, after falling two goals behind early on.
“That was two tough games in the last seven days for us,” said Casey.
“I felt at Seaview, we didn’t give a good account of ourselves in the first half and gave ourselves too much to do to get back into it. Although from a development point of view, it was good experience for our boys to be competing with the likes of Philip Lowry and Gary Thompson, who are part of a full time professional set up and hopefully they can learn from it.
“Our most recent home game against Cliftonville had a bit of everything. There was some chaotic defending from both sides; a sending off, a multitude of missed chances, some great goalkeeping and plenty of entertainment for the neutral. A really poor start didn’t help our cause but the lads showed a great fighting spirit to patiently claw their way back into the game when it didn’t look like it was going to be our night. After being two nil down inside five minutes, we will content ourselves with a point, even though it should maybe have been all three. Full credit to Cliftonville though, who fought gallantly to the end to take something from it and my counterpart Declan O’Hara was rightly pleased with how they acquitted themselves.
“We are on our travels again next week to take on Ards and Ballymena respectively, and hopefully we can put some more points on the board.”