Photo above: Graeme Edgar receives his Man of the Match award from City Assistant Manager Ray Byrne
By Laura Hillen
Newry City gave a much improved display on Friday night to ease past Banbridge Rangers in the 1st round of the Mid Ulster Cup. On the front foot from the first whistle Newry had enough chances to have enjoyed a much more comfortable evening but in the end had ace goal scorer Keith Johnston to thank for a late winner.
The home side got off to the best possible start with Mark Lowry scoring after 7 minutes. With Rangers playing with a high back line they were susceptible to a long ball over the top to the fast Newry forwards and it wasn’t long until Newry took advantage, Ian Curran pitching a ball into the opposing half which Chris Fay latched onto. Unopposed, Fay took the ball to the end line before firing in a low cross which was met by Lowry at the back post, Lowry deflecting the ball to the net for his 8th goal of the season.
Conversely Graeme Edgar has yet to score for Newry and on the half hour mark it looked as if he was going to break his duck. From left back Edgar went on a marauding run skipping past a few challenges before laying the ball to the feet of centre forward Sean McMullan. McMullan back heeled to Ryan Quinn who in turn laid the ball into the path of Edgar who had continued his run into the box. Now with only the keeper to beat Edgar attempted to curl his shot to the far post alas pulling his effort into the keeper’s body.
For their part Banbridge Rangers rarely looked like getting past the Newry defence and with Peter Murphy looking assured under any high crosses the home goal was rarely threatened in the first half.
Newry continued to push forward in their attempt to add to the one goal lead. On 44 minutes it was the turn of Niall Crilly to use his pace to get behind the Banbridge defence. Faced with that high defensive line Crilly knocked the ball past the last defender before regaining possession and flashing in a low cross which was just out of the reach of the sliding Johnston. And Johnston was to have another chance before half time. Jimmy Walker, who looked back to his best in midfield knocked the ball wide to Lowry who took a touch before crossing to Johnston, the Newry man unable to get enough power into his header to beat McMinn in the Rangers goal.
Straight from the restart Newry created another great chance and again it was Walker finding Lowry who pulled his cross back to Johnston unmarked on the edge of the 6 yard box, the striker unable to find the target with his effort.
At this point the game began to open up with chances coming thick and fast. On the hour mark Banbridge almost equalized when a long ball caught the Newry defence flat with Cousins left with a free run on the Newry goal. Murphy committed himself to come from his line to narrow the shooting angle, his decision vindicated when Cousins effort hit the Newry side netting. At the other end it was the Banbridge defence turn to be caught flat when a long pass from Chris McMahon placed Lowry with a run on goal, the ball however bouncing high causing him to lash his shot well wide. Rangers were threatening to equalize and looked likely to score on 65 minutes only for a last ditch tackle from Edgar saving the moment for Newry. However the escape was short lived as minutes later Rangers winger Frazer took the ball down the left wing and rolled a pass into the path of Andy Mallen, who’s perfectly struck low shot from the edge of the box gave Murphy little chance as it flashed past him into the back of the Newry goal.
The home side’s reaction to being pegged back will have pleased manager Darren Mullen. Walker who was unflappable in possession, linked up again with Lowry, who swung in a high cross from which Barr challenged, the ball falling to Fay at the back post but the winger was unfortunate to see his shot deflected wide.
Newry continued to press and with 10 minutes left goal-getter Barr almost grabbed the winner. Lowry showed great endeavour to chase a long ball which forced a mistake from a Banbridge defender as he tried to shepherd the ball out, the ball falling to Barr inside the box and with everyone expecting a shot across goal, Barr blasted to the near top corner, McMinn showing great reflexes to palm the shot wide. Rangers again relied on McMinn to deny Lowry after he was set free on goal by a fabulous diagonal ball from Edgar which landed perfectly at the Newry mans feet on the right corner of the box, McMinn blocking Lowry’s shot with his legs. However, Lowry was not to be denied. With minutes left he was again released by a perfect long pass from McMahon and while Lowry appeared to be fouled inside the box in the act of shooting the loose ball fell to Walker on the edge of the box. Composed as ever the Newry playmaker slipped a through ball to Johnston who got just reward for his evenings endeavour as he clinically slid the ball past McMinn to win the game for Newry.
Newry manager Mullen was clearly content with the win, “We started the game at a great tempo and should have had the game wrapped up at half time. Offensively we were good and looked very solid at the back. We should have doubled the lead straight after the break and had other chances to extend the lead. But then we let Banbridge back into it and while we could have felt sorry for ourselves the lads dug deep and we ran out worthy winners with all 14 players deserving praise in what was a good win”.
Man of the Match: Graeme Edgar
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Crilly, McMahon, Curran, Edgar, Quinn, Walker, Fay, McMullan, Lowry, Johnston Subs Brilly, Durnin, Barr, Campbell, Davison.