Newry City produced arguably their best performance of the season on Saturday to record a 4-1 victory away to St Mary’s. Playing on the artificial pitch at Annagh Newry revelled on the flat surface which lent itself to their passing brand which they have stuck to all season. And although now playing for pride only as this season draws to its end its clear that Newry manager Darren Mullen has his eyes firmly set on next year with the foundations to be set in the five games that remain.
Against St Mary’s in the first of those five game’s the first half belonged almost exclusively to Newry, the visitors signalling their intentions right from the kick off as David O’Connor and the highly impressive Josh Durnin created a shooting opportunity for Sean Hand who cut in from his left wing position to fire a warning shot over the St Marys crossbar. Durnin was pulling all the strings and was again involved minutes later when he showed up deep in his own half to take the ball from O’Connor before finding Chris McMahon in space on the edge of the St Mary’s box. McMahon slipped the ball to Sean McMullan who twisted and turned to make space for a shot only to be denied by Chris Mackle who poked the ball for a corner as the big man was about to pull the trigger. It wasn’t all fancy footwork however, Newry’s next chance falling Hands way after a crunching tackle from Ian Curran dispossessed a home player mid way inside the St Mary’s half, Hand latching onto the loose ball before firing in a dipping drive which skimmed the top of the St Marys netting. The same player was even more unfortunate from Newrys next attack when he let fire from almost the same spot this time denied by an excellent save from Martin Savage who flung himself across his goal to tip Hands shot onto the underside of his crossbar. Indeed Savage was in great shot stopping form and was soon to once more come to his sides rescue. From his own half O’Connor spotted a forward run from McMahon and zipped a low ball forward which McMullan stepped over, the pass perfect for McMahons run allowing the Newry captain to smash a left foot shot which looked destined for the top corner of the St Marys net except for another diving save from Savage.
With all of this packed into the first 30 minutes the pressure had to tell and a flowing first time passing movement from Newry, on the half hour mark, which culminated with McMullan knocking the ball back to Niall Crilly who pinged a low diagonal ball to Hand arriving into the box, the winger using all the pace on Crilly’s pass to side foot his first time shot into the roof of the St Marys net before Savage had time to react to open the scoring for Newry. The visitors doubled their advantage just before half time with another picture book goal. After a period of short passing between the defence and midfield the ball arrived to Crilly in his right back spot. Crilly immediately injected pace into the play picking out Mark Lowry with a forward pass before running onto the return flick leaving the St Mary’s covering players in his wake as cut through the defence and into the box before picking his spot in the far bottom corner of the goal to put Newry 2-0 up with a clinical finish.
Having dominated the first half Newry handed St Mary’s a lifeline at the start of the second when an innocuous high ball was misjudged, the ball allowed to bounce into the path of a St Mary’s player who had the simplest of tasks of lobbing the ball over the stranded Peter Murphy to halve the Newry advantage.
The visitors, however, soon regained the momentum, Crilly sweeping a pass from right to left back from where O’Connor almost replicated Crilly’s goal, playing the ball forward to McMullan before receiving a return pass and taking the ball to the edge of the area before striking a low shot just wide of the post with Savage beaten. Newry regained the two goal advantage on the hour mark when Conor McCaul ended a phase of Newry passing by breaking forward, taking the ball round a few challenges before slicing the St Marys defence with a pass perfectly weighted into the path of Hand who curled his shot around Savage and into the far corner of the net for his second goal of the game.
And a match full of cracking goals was topped off by Newrys fourth with Man of the Match McCaul once more central. Again picking the ball up in his own half McCaul waltzed forward making light of several challenges until he arrived inside the St Marys box where he first feigned to shoot before squaring the ball to McMullan at the back post, the striker also dummying his first shot before picking his spot to round off a fine win for Newry which delighted Mullen “This was a very good team performance from start to finish. The players were told before the game that we have five games left and the challenge is to win them all to finish the season in the right manner. We showed our intentions early on and played some lovely football which unfortunately hasn’t been evident enough this season. Everyone played their part but Josh Durnin and Conor McCaul were outstanding in what turned out to be a comfortable win. We know that we are a better team than results have shown this season but we are growing up as a group and results like this will give us reason to look forward to next season”
Newrys next game is under the lights at home to Tandragee on Wednesday 1st April, kick off 8pm.
Newry City: Murphy, Crilly, O’Connor, R Hand, McCaul, Durnin, McMahon, Curran, Lowry, McMullan, S Hand Subs: Fay, Johnson, Smyraginas, Crummy.