Newry City AFC gained revenge on Hanover for an early season cup defeat with a league victory at a frozen Showgrounds on Friday night. On a pitch which had a heavy frost covering for the full ninety minutes Newry delivered their 10th clean sheet of the season from 17 competitive fixtures and scored 2 second half goals to secure the win which puts them 6 points clear at the top of the table.
On a slippery bobbly surface goal chances were hard to come by in the first half, Newry having to wait until the 15th minute for their first strike at goal when right back Niall Crilly ventured forward linking first with Graeme Edgar and then with centre forward Mark Patton before firing in a goal bound shot which was deflected over for a corner. This was soon followed by a double chance for the home team. Edgar challenged bravely for an aerial ball on the edge of the Hanover box attacking the ball with his head whilst the defender went with a high boot for which referee McCacken, who had a largely flawless game, awarded a Newry free kick. Up stepped Chris McMahon to place a shot destined for the top left hand corner of the Hanover net only for Matthew Short to dive full length to palm the ball out, the rebound falling to the head of Patton who did well to react only for his effort to sail narrowly over the Hanover crossbar. Evidenced by 10 clean sheets Newry defensively are on the top of their game at the moment and on 25 minutes when a dangerous ball was launched into the back post of the Newry penalty area Crilly was composed enough to take possession of the ball and pass his way out of trouble even though surrounded by a number of Hanover forwards.
Crilly was again involved in the final home chance of the half on 40 minutes when he received a throw out from keeper Peter Murphy before finding the feet of Patton half way inside the Hanover half. Patton spun round the defender and took the ball to the by line before drilling in a low cross ball which Shane Lundy latched onto only to be beaten by the surface, slipping as he shot which took all the pace and direction from his effort. The final opportunity of the half fell to Hanover. On the stroke of half time a long kick out was nodded into the path of Steven Woods and when it looked as though he had a clear sight of goal in came Conor McCaul with a burst of speed to make up vital ground which allowed him to block Wood’s shot with a perfectly judged sliding tackle to keep the game scoreless at half time.
The introduction of Jimmy Walker into the Newry midfield shortly after half time proved to be the turning point of the game. Blessed with sublime skill Walker’s close control and vision was just what the home side needed and he was immediately involved spraying a pass wide to Lundy on the left, his cross deflecting around the box before falling to McMahon who’s volley was blocked at close range by the arm of a Hanover defender, referee McCaughey waving away the Newry appeals for a penalty.
Newry’s domination of play was rewarded on the hour mark with a move which was started by Murphy in the home goal. With passing ability as good as any outfield player Murphy received a back pass and dummied the Hanover forward feigning to pass to his left before switching back to his right foot to release Crilly who now had space to exploit. This he did before finding Mark Lowry midway inside the Hanover half. Lowry cut infield, then played a reverse pass to McMahon wide on Newrys right. McMahon beat the defender and took the ball to the end line before pulling a cross back to the edge of the six yard box where it was met by Lowry who smashed his shot to the back of the Hanover net.
Now firmly on top Newry soon doubled their advantage. Patton won another high ball which he controlled before feeding Walker. Walker played a first time pass to Lundy wide on the left wing, Lundy took the ball past his defender before returning a crossed ball from the end line to Walker who placed his shot to the Hanover net to put Newry 2-0 up.
Hanover refused to lie down and brought Dean Bunting into their attack, his lively play keeping the Newry defence on their toes.
In a move to close out the game Newry introduced the experienced Paul McElroy into a midfield position and it was McElroy who instigated the next chance when he played the ball wide to Lundy. Lundy, who was a threat to Hanover for the entire 90 minutes, again beat the Hanover defender before firing in a low cross which was just out of the reach of the in rushing McMahon.
Newry had a glorious chance to wrap the game up with minutes left when Man of the Match Niall Crilly whipped in a free kick from yards inside the Hanover half which Patton rose highest to win, his glancing header narrowly going the wrong side of the post.
In a game played on a difficult pitch, for which the Hanover committee were keen to praise Newry City AFC for hosting a game which was originally scheduled for Portadown, referee William McCacken and both teams are to be commended on providing an evening’s entertainment for a sizeable crowd on a bitterly cold night.
Newry City AFC 1.Murphy 2.Crilly 3.Anderson 4.Annett 5.McCaul 6.Edgar 7.McMahon © 8.Curran (Walker) 9.Patton 10.Lowry (McElroy) 11.Lundy (Barr) Substitutes 12. Walker 14.Campbell 15.Thompson 16.McElroy 17.Barr 18.McVicker
Hanover 1.Short 2.Scott 3.JasonWoods 4.McKinney 5.Crowe 6.Topley 7.Elliot 8.McCullough 9.lappin 10.Sargent 11.Steven Woods Substitutes 12.Douglas 14.Hynds 15.Harrison 16.Bunting 17. Green