Newry City were knocked of the Mid Ulster Cup in Saturdays 2nd round clash away to Amateur League 1A side Rathfriland Rangers who were marshalled throughout by ex Newry stalwart Paul Donegan. Although this was the second cup defeat in successive weekends the Newry management will have been much more satisfied with this display against a strong Rathfriland side.
Newry started the game with a new striking partnership of Neil Barr and Mark Patton and it was from the display of Patton that the Newry fans will take most encouragement for the forthcoming fixtures. Making his seasonal debut having returned from a serious injury Patton was a real handful for the Rathfriland defence both on the floor but mostly in the air where he enjoyed the better of many aerial duels with Rathfriland centre half Johnny Gibson.
Newry had the first good chance of the game after 6 minutes when Conor McCaul helped a long clearance into the path of Neil Barr who bore down on goal from the Newry left but drilled a low shot wide of the post. The game continued end to end before the next clear chance on 25 minutes which again fell to Newry. This time Barr rose highest to nod a Peter Murphy kick out to John Smyth wide on the right wing. Smyth ran at his defender and feigned to go down the line before cutting in and curling a left foot shot which forced the home keeper to make a fine save at the far post.
Newry paid the price for a little indiscipline on the half hour mark. Whilst some of the Newry players were still distracted appealing for what seemed like an off side decision which was not given in earlier play the Rathfriland players took a short corner which Ryan Evans carried to the edge of the Newry penalty area before unleashing a terrific shot which flew past Murphy into the top corner of the Newry net.
Almost immediately Newry had the chance to equalize when neat interplay between Graeme Edgar and Walker in the middle of the field released Barr again on the right wing. With space to run into Barr made ground but as he was about to shoot the ball bobbled, his shot rising from it left his boot and flew a foot over the bar. It was on the stroke of half time that Newry came closest to equalizing. Patton won another long clearance nodding the ball into to path of the overlapping David Anderson who continued down the wing before rifling his shot to the near post. Taken by surprise the home keeper could only push the ball onto the inside of his post and was fortunate to see it rebound across his goal line to safety.
Rathfriland doubled their advantage soon after the restart. A long throw in from inside his own half by Donegan put his old team mate Ian Curran, who had just entered the game for the injured Paul McElroy, under pressure and his attempt to shepherd the ball over the goal line was intercepted by Darren McGrath who made his way now unattended into the Newry box before slamming the ball past the helpless Murphy to put the home team 2-0 up.
Patton and Barr continued to link up well, the latter on hand to pick up Patton’s headed flick on’s. On the hour mark Barr found himself on the end of another Patton set up only for his shot to be blocked at the expense of a corner by the home keeper’s legs. Patton’s last involvement in the match was to head the resulting corner over the bar.
Newry introduced Mark Lowry to their attack with 25 minutes left and the speedy forward had an immediate impact winning a free kick with his first touch which Walker swung over and Curran won at the back post only for his headed effort to go wide of the post. Newry had a similar free kick minutes later and when Walkers cross was cleared to the edge of the box Curran was there to lob the ball back into the box Lowry nipping in between Gibson and the keeper to win the ball and finish to the net to half the deficit.
Newry’s final chance to equalize came on 85 minutes. Anderson picked up the ball in his own half and made ground before sliding a pass into the box for Barr who’s shot on the run was blocked wide by Donegan. However, the best chance followed from the resultant corner as Walker’s cross was helped on by the head of McCaul to Barr free at the back post who in his attempt to nod the ball over the keeper got too much power on his effort and the ball slipped over the bar leaving the final score 2-1 to Rathfriland.
This was an improved effort from Newry against an experienced Rathfriland side which should prove to be beneficial when they resume league duties against table toppers Dungannon Tigers next Saturday, 28th Sept. In a game which saw many hard working contributions the stand out Newry performance came from Mark Patton.
Newry City AFC: Peter Murphy, David Anderson, Gary McVicker, Joel Annett, Paul McElroy, Jimmy Walker, Conor McCaul, Graeme Edgar, Mark Patton, Neil Barr, John Smyth. Subs: Mark Lowry (Smyth), Ian Curran (McElroy), Peter Thompson, Paul Daly, Lonnie Larkin (Patton).
Photos courtesy of Brendan Monaghan