With the league title sewn up Newry City set about the task of completing their league programme and preparing for the last cup competition of the season with two games this week, the first at home to Laurelvale on Tuesday, the latter away to Broomhedge on Saturday.
Tuesday was largely an evening of celebration at The Showgrounds when Paul Suckling from the Mid Ulster Football Association presented Newry captain Chris McMahon with the cup for winning Intermediate League B, due reward for the efforts that all associated with the club have put in since it was reformed last year.
As for the game itself it turned out to be something of an anti-climax, perhaps unsurprisingly given that the home side had secured the league on the preceding Saturday. Newry manager Darren Mullen fielded a full strength side for the visit of mid table Laurelvale for a game which Newry would have expected to win and given a normal rub of the green and a few refereeing decisions they would have done so. However the home side had to be content with a point which manager Mullen was keen to excuse given his teams efforts over the season “This was a night of celebration for all at the club being crowned as league champions . Although the result could have been better the players were entitled to celebrate over the weekend and if that had a bearing on the match then we can live with that. Having said that we had enough chances in the first half to secure the win, went a goal ahead, missed a penalty, were possibly denied one or two more and paid the price near the end”.
After a sloppy first half in which Newry were restricted to a handful of chances the game came to life in the second period which was a story of goals and penalties. Newry went ahead after 53 minutes. David Anderson won a contested header in midfield, Neil Barr latching onto the loose ball. Barr turned infield and laid the ball to the feet of Patton who played a one two with Jimmy Walker before swivelling on the penalty spot and sliding his shot past Ashley Gracey in the Laurelvale net to put Newry 1-0 up. Gracey was to be a central figure in the rest of the game.
On the hour mark Chris McMahon was flattened inside the box by the keeper who completely missed the bouncing ball but did not miss the Newry captain taking him completely out of the game. Inexplicably the referee did not agree first waving play on, then stopping play with the home side in possession to allow McMahon to be treated and bizarrely resumed with a free kick to Laurelvale. Patton almost got his second goal of the game on 70 minutes in a move which he was involved in from start to finish. Instantly controlling a long ball on his chest the big man displayed great skill to first lay the ball back to the over lapping Anderson before controlling the pass back from Mark Lowry and hitting a left foot shot which brought the best out of Gracey as the keeper flung himself to his left to tip the ball over his cross bar for a corner. Gracey was however fortunate to remain on the field on 82 minutes when he came off his line and feet first cynically scythed down Mark Lowry, the referee awarding a penalty but only brandishing a yellow card to Gracey.
Worse was to come for the home team as caught up in the atmosphere of the evening the players gave the penalty to Graeme Edgar who has contributed much to the defensive aspect of Newrys play this season but has yet to score, a statistic which remains as he pulled the spot kick wide of the post. And further agony for the home contingent was to come in the last minute when Jamie Uprichard tucked away a goal with almost the last kick of the game to deny Newry the victory. The result was however put to one side immediately after the final whistle when Chris McMahon raised the league trophy, a fitting finale to his team’s last home game of the season.
For Saturdays away game to Broomhegde Newry made changes to the starting line up from Tuesday but showed the strength in depth that the club have handing out a 4-0 drubbing to the home side. Again this was a game which didn’t come to life until the second half even though Newry almost scored after only 10 seconds. Mark Patton, playing in an unfamiliar role in the centre of midfield won the ball and slipped it to Mark Lowry, about forty yards from goal, Lowry looking up and attempting to chip the Broomhedge keeper who managed to scramble back and tip the ball over his crossbar.
Newry took the lead on five minutes courtesy of Man of the Match Joe Campbell. Andy McLarty won the ball on the half way line and found Lowry wide on the left. The speedy Lowry skipped down the side line and fired in a driven cross which Campbell met with a firm header at the back post to put Newry 1-0 up. With so much of a changed team it took Newry to the second half before they clicked into gear signalled by an excellent header on 50 minutes by Paul McElroy which had to be cleared off the Broomhedge goal line. Five minutes later the Newry advantage was doubled. Graeme Edgar played a long ball up the middle, the bustling McLarty caused havoc in the home defence leaving Lowry in a race for the ball with the home keeper. With Lowry’s pace there was only going to be one winner in that race, the Newry man rounding the keeper and planting the ball in the net for goal number two.
Chances were now coming thick and fast for Newry. On the hour mark Chris Hughes took the ball down the left wing and crossed to the back post where Campbell controlled instantly and forced an excellent save from the home keeper. Ten minutes later Campbell brought another excellent save from the home keeper after he was again set up at the back post by Anderson, the keeper reacting to palm Campbell’s snapshot round the post. There was little he could do however to prevent goal number three. Again Anderson was central playing a through ball which McLarty beat the off side trap to run onto. McLarty took the ball into the box before slipping a clever pass sideways pass to Chris Hughes who shot first time into the far corner of the net.
Goal number four was similar to three. This time Sean Mooney played a long ball and again McLarty outpaced the home defence. This time McLarty chose to shoot himself and when the keeper could only block his shot Gary McVicker followed up on the edge of the box to thump the rebound into the home goal to seal a 4-0 win for Newry.
After the game Mullen was much more enthused by this performance “Winning the league early and with a few players carrying injuries meant we made a number of changes for this game and I am delighted to see players who maybe did not get the chances they deserved during the season with the team playing so well stepping up to the mark which surely shows the strength of the squad which we have at the club. This now sets us up for a tough game in the cup on Wednesday night which we will go to full of confidence.”
Newry City Team: Murphy, Mooney, McElroy, Martin, Anderson, Edgar, Patton, Hughes, Lowry, Campbell, McLarty, Subs: Annett, McVicker, Crilly, Barr.
Newry’s next game is away to St Marys at 8pm on Wednesday 7th May. Newry City travel club bus will leave The Stonebridge at 7pm sharp, all are welcome.