Newry City made it three league wins in a row with a 4-2 win over old rivals St Mary’s at the Showgrounds on Saturday. For their first meeting since both sides were promoted from Intermediate B last season Newry manager Darren Mullen would have known what to expect from the visitors and was naturally pleased with the result “After our games with St Marys last season we knew this was going to be a tough fixture and it proved to be the case. Having said that a few defensive lapses made it closer than it should have been. We have learned to be patient in recent games and although we had the majority of possession in the first half it wasn’t until the last 20 minutes or so of the half that that we looked dangerous. We maintained that higher tempo in the second half and we look a lot better when we move the ball quicker. That’s three wins in a row for us now as we start to get a more settled side. The win sets us up nicely for next Saturdays derby game away to Camlough in what will be a tough test for us but one that we are looking forward to.”
Mullen however will be aware that his team have been slow starters off late and they may not get away with that against high flying Camlough. On Saturday neither side registered an attempt on goal until the 15th minute when Newrys Mark Lowry controlled a Josh Durnin cross on his chest but having done the hard bit was unable to keep his shot down the ball flying harmlessly over the crossbar. Although Newry were enjoying lots of possession chances were few and far between, the home fans made to wait until the 25th minute for Newry to get a shot on target, David O’Connor flighting a pass over the defence for Jimmy Walker who forced Martin Savage to react quickly to turn the ball around his near post. The home side continued to probe but found the St Mary’s rear guard a tough nut to crack. On 40 minutes Conor McCaul almost found a way through. Having picked the ball up in his own half McCaul strode forward before finding Sean McMullan inside the box, the big man twisting to make space for a shot which Savage again saved. McMullan was to have the final chance of the half O’Connor’s cross nodded into his path by Mark Patton, McMullan’s first time shot this time not troubling the St Mary’s keeper.
Newry continued to press in the opening stages of the second half and got the little bit of luck which their play deserved on 55 minutes. Lowry now switched to the right wing stepped inside his marker and released McMullan. With no one available McMullan held the ball until the arrival into the box of Walker who’s first time shot deflected off the St Marys defender as he attempted to block, the ball spinning viciously into the corner of the net despite the best efforts of Savage.
Now a goal up and expecting to kick on Newry were rocked back on their heels on 65 minutes when they lost possession in the middle of the park, St Marys Sean Brady quickly seizing the opportunity to break down the left wing before whipping in a low cross which was clinically turned into the Newry net by Luke Carvill to level the scores.
Newry were not to be denied and restored their lead with a goal created and scored by Man of the Match Jimmy Walker. With little on Ian Curran pitched a long pass to Walker just outside the box. With his back to goal Walker took the ball on his chest drawing a foul from the St Mary’s defender. Walker stepped up to take the free blasting his shot through the defensive wall, the ball taking a slight deflection on the way which aided its passage into the net.
Walker was now controlling the game but spurned a few chances to claim his hat trick. He was however involved in Newrys third goal on 83 minutes which should have wrapped up the game. With the ball in a central position Walker sprayed the ball wide to Neil Barr who lobbed in a high first time cross which McMullan rose highest to meet steering his header past Savage to make the game safe for the home side.
Or so it seemed but that was not allowing for the spirit of the visitors who once more broke up field from the restart, Chris Mackle finding space down the wing before crossing for the recently introduced Michael O’Haire who gave Ruddy no chance with an expert finish.
With the points now back in the balance Newry went right back on the attack, Lowry taking the ball to the end line before pulling his cross back to the penalty spot from where Barr’s first time shot was pushed wide by Savage. However the danger was not gone, O’Connor picking up the loose ball and lofting in a high ball which McMullan met with an overhead volley which skimmed the post. Unlucky with this, the Newry centre forward was soon to benefit from a major slice of fortune when a St Marys clearance hit the referee, the ball ricocheting straight to McMullan with only the keeper to beat, the big man calmly taking the ball around Savage before finishing to the empty net to round off the scoring 4-2 in Newry’s favour.
Newry City AFC: Ruddy, Hand, O’Connor, Curran, McCaul, McMahon, Walker, Patton, McMullan, Durnin, Lowry. Subs: Campbell, Edgar, Donegan, Barr, Fay.