Newry City AFC continued with their preseason itinerary of testing friendlies against teams from higher divisions with a match against Irish League Championship 2 side Banbridge Town on Tuesday evening at the Newry Showgrounds. Again the emphasis for the Newry management team was geared around the start of the new season with players interchanging and trialling both positions and formation throughout the game.
The visitors went ahead after fifteen minutes when a moment of hesitancy from the Newry keeper Jude Rooney was seized upon by the ever alert Conor Downey who prevented the ball from going over the end line and swung a nicely judged shot into the back of the empty net.
Newry however immediately began their fight back. Determined to play the ball on the ground most of Newrys best attacks started deep in their own half with defenders Conor McCaul and Joel Annett linking well with Graham Edgar and Niall Crilly in the Newry midfield.
Alas several chances to score the first goal for NCAFC came and went. Most of these chances involved Mark Lowry, Chris Smyth and John Smyth all of whom tormented the Banbridge defence with neat interplay without fully testing the away keeper.
Unfortunately Newry were made to pay dearly for not capitalising on these chances when Downey scored on a breakaway to make the score at the interval 2-0.
The second half of the game was largely even with Newry playing most of the football. However the home teams determination to play the ball short was pounced upon after 65 minutes when a passing movement which started with a short kick out was intercepted by the Banbridge winger who crossed for Downey to volley in at the back post for his hat trick to make the score line 3-0 which was followed shortly afterwards with Banbridges fourth.
These goals were a little harsh on Newry who continued to make a series of half chances created by the mid field duo of Chris McMahon and David O’Connor. Unfortunately these half chances went unfinished and the game ended with a final score 4-0 in the visitors favour.
The Newry management have purposefully set a series of testing games for their new young squad who should be encouraged by this display against a seasoned team who will ply their trade two divisions above Newry. The tests to come will not get any easier with Cliftonville, Armagh and a Dundalk eleven around the corner on the squads steep learning curve.
In this keenly competed game the best for Newry was John Smyth (pictured) who will surely soon be rewarded for his attacking play with a goal.