Although the other result at the top of the league on the day went in their favour Newry City will feel like Saturdays draw away to Lurgan Town was a chance missed to cement their place at the top of Mid Ulster B. Having beaten Lurgan by five goals earlier in the season Newry would have approached this game in a confident manner but were unable to reach the level of fluent football that they have displayed all season. And even with that this was still a game Newry should have won having twice taken the lead and missing some great chances.
Unusually Newry didn’t create a goal chance until the 10th minute when Jimmy Walker played a short free kick on the left wing to Sean Hand. Hand took the ball to the end line and whipped in a cross which Mark Patton rose highest to win, his glancing header going wide of the back post. And Patton was again close on 15 minutes when he controlled a pass from Niall Crilly on the corner of the Lurgan box turning quickly and shooting, his effort going narrowly over the cross bar with the Lurgan keeper beaten. The home side a chance of their own minutes later when Adam Stewart broke down Newry’s right and whipped a dangerous cross along the six yard box which fortunately evaded everybody going out for a throw on the opposite side.
Newry took the lead on the 20th minute when David Anderson and Crilly combined to find Neil Barr on the corner of the Lurgan box, Barr immediately pivoting and firing a low drive to the far corner of the Lurgan net. The lead did not last long however as the home side equalized on 25 minutes when the Newry defence failed to deal with a corner, a looping header from the penalty spot beating Peter Murphy in the Newry goal.
Barr threatened again on the half hour mark. Chris McMahon picked up the ball in the middle of the field before finding David Anderson wide on the right. Anderson fired in a high cross which Barr rose to meet, his powerful header flying past the upright with Chris Davidson in the home goal beaten. Davidson however was not beaten on 37 minutes when he launched himself to his right to stop a Jimmy Walker shot from outside the box which looked destined for the top corner of the Lurgan net only for Davidson’s outstretched hand which tipped it wide.
Newry regained the lead shortly before half time. Barr turned provider taking possession just inside the Lurgan half and playing a straight ball along the ground to inside the box to which Patton won the race with Davidson who took the Newry man down for a penalty. And it was Barr who reaped the reward for his pass as he smashed the penalty into the Lurgan net to put Newry 2-1 in front. However there was still time before the half ended for the lead to be again given away. Having snuffed out a Lurgan attack Newry chose to pass the ball out of defence, the pass intercepted by a home player forcing an attacking throw in close to the Newry goal line. And when the long throw was launched into the box Newry could not get that elusive connection to clear, the ball falling to a Lurgan player who lashed the ball to the net despite Murphy’s best efforts to save.
Newry started the second half on the front foot and almost immediately regained the lead when a free flowing move between Crilly and Hand ended with Patton and McMahon playing a one two releasing Patton inside the box with only Davidson to beat, the big Lurgan keeper somehow blocking the shot with his legs. Newry continued to probe, Anderson and McMahon combining to play the ball into the feet of Patton, the Newry centre forward holding the ball up and rolling it back to Barr who alas smashed his shot over the cross bar. This was as near as Newry came to scoring for the rest of the game as Lurgan defended deep forcing Newry to pass across the face of and shoot from outside the home penalty area. And for all their possession Newry have Conor McCaul to thank for preserving the point when as last man he slid into halt a Lurgan attack with the Newry goal in danger.
Newry will be glad to have the opportunity to immediately put this game behind them as their next game comes up quickly at home to Seagoe on Tuesday night with a 8pm kick off. This will be followed by an away fixture on Saturday 5th April at Broomhedge. Newry City travel club bus will leave the Stonebridge on Saturday @ 1pm.
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Crilly, McCaul, McElroy, McVicker, Walker, McMahon, Anderson, Patton, Barr, Hand. Subs: Lowry, Lundy, Edgar, Annett, Martin.