Newry City secured three precious points at Tandragee on Saturday but what could be even more valuable to Darren Mullen’s men will be the lesson they will have learnt from the game. Three goals to the good at half time and coasting to victory the Newry boys were unsettled by two final quarter goals from Tandragee which meant that it was the visitors who in the end were glad to hear the final whistle.
The home side were the first with a chance on goal, Simon McClean outpacing the Newry defence before cutting back inside the box, onto his right foot, and swinging a shot towards the far top corner which brought an excellent save from Peter Murphy as he stretched to tip the ball around the post.
Until the half hour mark the game became a tough midfield battle with neither side looking likely to score. That all changed on 30 minutes and once more it was that man Sean McMullan getting on the score sheet for Newry. With Tandragee pressing Newry captain Chris McMahon won the ball and fed Paddy Mooney on the half way line. With the home defence stretched Mooney played a low incisive pass between the central defenders which McMullan ran onto before checking back and curling a low shot around McGivern nestling in the bottom corner of the Tandragee net to put Newry one up.
This goal settled the visitors and they soon got the second goal created by the nifty footwork of Man of the Match Decky Carville. Linking up with Timmy Grant down the left wing Carville ghosted past Tandragee players as he took the ball first to the by line and then back inside the box, a run which was either going to see him score himself or be hacked down for the penalty which duly happened. With McMullan in such good goal scoring form there was no doubt who was going to take the spot kick and even less doubt that the big man would score which he did with ease sending McGivern the wrong way to double Newrys advantage. And with Newry now very much on top McMullan wrapped up a first half hat trick on 40 minutes and again Mooney was involved. This was a goal created by the vision of Jimmy Walker. Bringing the ball out of his own half Walker had his choice of runners but spotted Mooney’s run wide on the right. With Walkers pass giving him a free run on goal Mooney hit a fierce shot from the corner of the box which McGivern could only deflected into the air with McMullan first to react to nod the ball into the empty net to put Newry in the comfort zone three goals to the good.
The second half was very like the first with little early goal mouth action and a few tasty tackles many of which were met with yellow cards. On the hour mark Newry almost got their fourth goal, Neil Mullen rising highest to meet Walkers corner with a bullet header which skimmed the top of McGivern’s cross bar. The game swung to the other end with the home side almost scoring from a crossed ball, Murphy again coming to Newrys rescue diving high to prevent the ball looping into the top corner of his net.
On 70 minutes Newry made and squandered a glorious chance to put the game to bed. Having worked the ball into the Tandragee box, first Grant look sure to score as he dribbled along the six yard box only to be denied a shooting opportunity by some excellent home defending. The threat however had not gone as the ball was passed between a series of Newry players inside the box each unable to get a clear shot on goal with some stout defending winning out.
This appeared to lift Tandragee and they pulled a goal back on 75 minutes when an in swinging corner was not dealt with by Newry, the ball eventually bundled over the line by Cecil Corbett.
Bolstered by this the home side further reduced the arrears with another goal on 80 minutes, Newry caught out by a quick free kick which Symonds was first to react to getting to the ball just before the Newry defender who clipped his heels sending Symonds to the ground, the referee with no hesitation pointing for a penalty. With the comeback now looking possible Murphy was unfortunate not to save the spot kick getting a hand to Wells effort but unable to stop the ball going over the line.
With the game now very much back on the balance the final 10 plus minutes were a little more frantic than they should have been for Newry especially if they had been able to take advantage of a glorious opportunity which came in the first of 5 added minutes. With Tandragee heavily over committed in attack the ball broke up field giving Newry a 3 against 1 numerical advantage which Walker seemed to have played out perfectly as he drew the lone defender before finding the lone Paddy Mooney who now had only McGivern to beat, Mooney perhaps with too much thinking time blasting his shot high over the Tangragee bar. In the end it mattered little as the referee blew the final whistle on 95 minutes with Newry winning 3-2.
Obviously delighted to secure three points at the home of the current champions Mullen was full of praise for his team after the game “I would have taken a 3-2 score line before the game but winning 3-0 at half time we left it tougher than it should have been and we need to learn from that. We started slowly but once we got into our rhythm they couldn’t handle us with McMullan benefitting from some excellent build up play. At half time we told them the game was far from over and although we had chances to add to our tally, we made several silly mistakes to allow them back into it. As current champions that was to be expected from Tandragee and we were more than happy to come away with the three points. McMullan will obviously get the headlines and has been in terrific form but I thought our midfield three were unrelenting. That’s five wins out of five and four wins out of four away from home which was our achilles heel last season. That said we will never get ahead of ourselves and will now look forward to a home game against St Mary’s next Saturday.”
NCAFC Man of the Match: Decky Carville
NCAFC Team: Murphy, McMahon, McCaul, Mullen, Sloan, Walker, Carville, McCann, Grant, Mooney, McMullan. Subs: Crilly, Durnin, Smaryginas.