Newry City delivered that elusive win under the floodlights in front of another big crowd at the Showgrounds on Friday night. This was the third Friday match of the season under the lights and on the previous occasions the home side had failed to deliver. However on Friday led by another storming display from captain Chris McMahon, Newry took sole possession of the league’s top spot thanks to a 3-1 win against Valley Rangers.
The foundation for the win came from goals either side of half time. The first which came after 35 minutes was the result of hard work from Chris McMahon. When John Smyth lobbed a high and hopeful ball into the centre of the Rangers half there seemed to be little threat with both central defenders in position to clear. However McMahon sensed a little hesitation and bore down on the clearance which he charged down, his endeavour rewarded as the ball rebounded into his path thirty yards from goal. With great composure McMahon took time to look up and lob the ball over the advancing Valley Rangers keeper Richard Baillie, the ball bouncing into the net to put Newry 1-0 up. Prior to this the game had been end to end but with little in the way of clear goal chances and the home side would have been content to go in at half time with that single goal lead.
Newry took a firm grip of the game straight after the break and McMahon was again involved winning a throw in deep in the Rangers half. Niall Crilly took the throw and found Neil Barr inside the Rangers box with his back to goal. Barr was unlucky to see his overhead kick hit the cross bar but fortunately for Newry John Smyth was the first to latch onto the rebound and he blasted home from close range to put Newry 2-0 up.
The same two players created and scored Newry’s third and best goal of the night soon after. Smyth, at his best beating defenders and whipping in crosses did just that on the 50th minute when he skipped down the Newry left wing and swung in a left footed cross from the by line which was met by a perfectly timed run from Barr who headed the ball back in the direction it came and into the top corner of the Valley net to put Newry 3-0 up.
At this stage Newry were threatening to put the game totally beyond Valley. Crilly who was a consistent attacking threat from right back for Newry was cynically taken down on the edge of the Valley Rangers penalty area. With Smyth over the ball and everyone waiting on a direct shot he chose to pass the ball to the unmarked McMahon inside the box. With the home crowd expecting number four Baillie advanced from his line to narrow the angle and make an excellent save blocking the ball for a corner. McMahons chance was bettered by that which fell to Mark Patton from the resultant Jimmy Walker corner, the inrushing Patton rising highest to thunder his headed effort against the crossbar and rebounding to safety.
Valley Rangers got a lifeline on 67 minutes when a free kick from the right was headed back across the Newry box to Stuart Patterson who drove his shot past Peter Murphy in the home goal to make the score 3-1. Rangers kept pressing and had a further chance with 15 minutes left when a left wing cross was met by the head of Richard Graham at the back post which forced Murphy into a fine save as he rose to pluck the ball out of the air as it sailed towards the top corner of the net.
Newry introduced the lively Mark Lowry at this stage and he almost had an immediate impact. David Anderson and Smyth combined on the left wing and found Lowry in space in the box. In an unusual sequence of events Lowry had three chances to score in the same attack. His first effort was blocked by the keeper and when the rebound fell back to Lowry’s feet he was twice denied by blocks from Valley defenders.
With five minutes left Valley forced Murphy to produce another great save when he palmed a fierce drive over the cross bar after the ball had bounced around the Newry box without being dealt with by the home defence.
The final chance of the match was Newry’s when Smyth played another short free to Walker inside the box, Baillie again quickly of his line to block the shot.
This win which returns Newry to the top of the league was fully merited from start to finish. The home side enjoyed top performances from the usual suspects McMahon and Crilly but the Man of the Match performance came from Neil Barr who made the crucial second goal and scored the third and best goal of the night.
City now look forward to travelling away to Richill in the Second Round of the Irish Cup on Saturday 12th October. The travel club bus will be leaving at 12:30 Sharp from the Stone Bridge, all are welcome.
Newry City AFC: Peter Murphy, Niall Crilly, David Anderson, Joel Annett, Conor McCaul, James Walker, Graeme Edgar (Hand), Chris McMahon, Neil Barr, Mark Patton (Lowry), John Smyth (Larkin). Subs: Mark Lowry, Peter Thompson, Lonnie Larkin, Sean Hand, Shane Lundy, Stefan Martin.
Valley Rangers: Richard Baillie, Raymond Hanna, Alan Henning, Stuart Patterson, Gary McKee, Kenny Graham, Andy McMath, Thomas Graham, Richard Graham, David McMurray, Andrew McCoy. Subs: Ryan Stevenson, Ryan McMurray, Steven Annett, Andrew Irvine, Philip Johnstone.
Photos: Brendan Monaghan