Newry City showed they are made of sterner stuff this season coming from two goals down at half time to beat Crewe United at Glenavy on Saturday, a comeback which after the game particularly pleased manager Darren Mullen“Psychologically that was a big win for us. We started very poorly and paid the price for that although after going a goal down I thought we looked the more likely to score. However, it’s hard to legislate for individual errors and it’s something we need to address in training. Rather than rant and rave or kick bottles at half time I simply questioned the players character. I asked had they the guts to respond the right way and they certainly did that in the second half.”
And while the score line suggests that this was the proverbial game of two halves the true story is that but for two sloppy mistakes Newry could have won this game more comfortably and at the end could even squander a penalty without feeling the pain.
That however didn’t look likely in the early minutes when with the visitors struggling to find their feet at the back a long diagonal ball over the Newry defence found the Crewe winger Terry McGrath in space just inside the Newry box, McGrath giving Peter Murphy little chance drilling a low shot across the Newry keeper into the far bottom corner of the goal to give Crewe an early lead.
Newry slowly got to grips with the game and had their first chance after 10 minutes when Conor Sloan and Timmy Grant combined on the left wing to find Decky Carville who was unfortunate to see his header flash past the near post. Grant was next to try for the equalizer when he shot from outside the box, his effort clipping off the top of the crossbar.
When it looked like Newry were getting on top a calamitous error at the back set them back on their heels. With 20 minutes on the clock a Crewe foray down the right wing seemed to have petered out with a tame cross which Conor McCaul shepherded into the clutches of Murphy only for the ball to squirm free directly to the feet of a Crewe forward who had the simple task of putting the ball into the empty net to put the home side two goals up, a lead which they held to the break.
Whatever Mullen did say at half time Newry were much stronger after the break with the midfield trio of Carville, Thomas McCann and Jimmy Walker all now winning their personal battles.
On 50 minutes Carville won a tussle for the ball in the middle of the park and laid the ball to the ever available Sean McMullan. McMullan pitched a first time pass over the defence into the path of Keith Johnston who instinctively attempted to flick the ball over the Crewe keeper alas unable to get enough height into his shot which Wilson stretched to catch. With Newry camped in the Crewe half a goal looked sure to come and the travelling fans didn’t have long to wait. This time it was McCann pushing forward and finding Johnston now switched back to the right wing. Johnston turned his marker inside out before looking up and picking out his partner McMullan on the edge of the box with a low pass which the Newry top scorer hit first time, his curling shot just out of Wilsons reach as it clipped the underside of the crossbar and nestled in the back of the Crewe net to bring Newry back into the game.
Newry drew level on the hour mark in a sweeping move started at left back by Niall Crilly, the ball passing through McCann, Walker and Chris McMahon before finding its way to Johnston who was simply giving his marker a torrid time. This time Johnston skipped past Dyer taking the ball to the end line before drilling a low cross along the box for which Carville had timed his run perfectly allowing him to turn the ball into the Crewe goal from close range.
Just as it looked like Newry were taking complete control they were reminded that there was still a defensive job to be done when, with Newry over committed on attack, the ball was cleared into the Newry half, the speedy McGrath outstripping the Newry defence leaving him with a clear run on goal. Murphy however made up for what had gone before as he came quickly off his line to deflect McGraths shot for a corner.
Newry were unfortunate not to take the lead on 70 minutes, McCann again winning possession in midfield and slipping a clever ball inside the full back which Grant latched onto, his shot on the run partially deflected by the Crewe keeper Wilson, the ball continuing on its path to goal but slowing enough for a covering defender to get back to clear it before it crossed the goal line.
The reprieve was however short lived and again McCann was the instigator. Picking the ball up inside his own half he drove forward before spotting that Johnston had peeled wide off his marker. McCann played the perfect pass to Johnston who capped his Man of the Match display by taking a touch to tee up his shot before striking a swerving shot from 30 yards out which curled away from the keeper and into the near top corner of the Crewe net to put Newry into a well deserved lead.
On 80 minutes Newry had a great chance to wrap the game with the same two players involved. This time McCann played a long ball over the top of the Crewe defence for which Johnston looked second best. However the winger is at the top of his game and his pace took him past Dyer who hauled the Newry man down as he was about to shoot. While the referee awarded a penalty and surprisingly only a yellow card for the offence Newry did not get full retribution for the foul as Carville, who otherwise had another impressive outing, blasted the spot kick over the bar.
The miss mattered little however as Newry controlled the remaining minutes to progress into the second round. After the game Newry manager Mullen however had his eyes very firmly on the league “That’s three away wins in a row now and we need to bring the intensity that was missing in the first half into next week’s league match away to Tandragee. In the second half we looked dangerous every time we went forward and defensively we looked more solid. The hard work that the players are putting in at training is showing towards the end of recent games and we have a really good squad from which I can bring on quality fresh players. That said Tandragee won the league last year and will be a really big test for us but one that we are looking forward to.”
Newry City Travel Club bus to Tandragee will be departing from the Stonebridge at 1.15pm sharp (Saturday 12th September). All are welcome.
Newry City AFC: Murphy, McMahon, Mullen, McCaul, Sloan, Carville, McCann, Walker, Grant, Johnston, McMullan. Subs: Durnin, Crilly, Mooney, Smaryginas.