Newry City tightened their grip at the top of Mid Ulster Intermediate football with a comprehensive victory over Ballymacash Rangers at The Showgrounds on Saturday. Determined to put last week’s first dropped points of the season behind them Newry got off to the best possible start going a goal up after only five minutes from the penalty spot and from there the point’s never looked in danger, the final four goal margin perhaps the best Ballymacash could have hoped for given the number of chances Newry created.
That early penalty which set Newry on their way came after Niall Crilly had made the most of some space on the wing, his cross partially cleared to the edge of the box where Timmy Grant was first to the ball, his touch taking him around a Rangers defender who had little choice but to take Grant down as he was about to shoot. While the referee did not see fit to deliver anymore punishment than to award the spot kick Sean McMullan did the rest planting the ball inside the post to open the scoring.
Minutes later Newry were unfortunate not to double their advantage. Keith Johnston latched onto a slip by Rangers centre half Ross Elliot, skipped past a tackle taking the ball to the end line before picking out his partner McMullan lurking inside the box. With defenders between him and the net McMullan worked his way across goal before crashing his shot off the underside of the cross bar and was the first to react to the rebound, this time denied by a fine save from Jason Campbell in the Ballymacash goal.
Johnston tormented the Rangers defence throughout the game and with 12 minutes on the clock the winger made it 2-0 for Newry. With a free kick on the halfway line Ballymacash committed men forward. Newry keeper Peter Murphy came off his line to collect the high ball and immediately spotting that the visitors were light at the back Murphy played an early long pass towards Johnston. Johnston cleverly gauged the flight of the ball better than his marker leaving him a one on one with the Rangers keeper which the Newry man won with ease, rounding the keeper and planting the ball into the empty net to double Newrys advantage.
Johnston had a chance to make it three after 15 minutes. Having switched to the left wing Johnston timed his run to beat the offside trap collecting a pass from Chris McMahon and from the corner of the box opened his body to shot for the far corner, Campbell diving full length to save.
With some quality forwards Rangers were always going to be a threat and on 20 minutes it took a sliding clearance at the near post from Neil Mullen to protect the Newry goal after Jordan Campbell had curled a dangerous ball from the right wing into the Newry goal mouth. Spirits raised by this Ballymacash pulled a goal back on 25 minutes when a fine passing movement found Kenny Campbell inside the Newry box and he gave Murphy little chance drilling a low shot past the advancing Newry keeper to put his side back in the game.
That was however as good as it got for the visitors as Newry were straight back on the attack. McMullan won a crunching tackle in the middle of the park, the ball breaking back to Graeme Edgar. Edgar played a first time pass over the defence for Stephen McCabe to run onto, McCabe making ground before whipping in a low cross which the Rangers defence did well to clear over their own cross bar.
Newry chances kept coming, Johnston once more switching wings and leaving the covering defender in his wake as he took the ball to the end line before firing in a low cross which McMullan met first time from close range, Campbell making a reaction save with his feet to once more deny Newry’s top scorer.
With ten minutes remaining in the first half Newry restored the two goal advantage. With a free kick wide on the left Newry had all their big men at the back post but it was to be Timmy Grant making a run to the front post who rose highest to steer McCabe’s free kick to the far top corner with a glancing header for a fine goal.
Two goals in arrears at half time Ballymacash had the first goal scoring chance of the second half, James Guiney cutting in from the right wing into the Newry box only to be foiled by Murphy who was quickly off his line to make a splendid save with his legs.
On the hour mark Newry made the game safe. Thomas McCann who has added real quality to the Newry midfield this season won the ball in a tackle midway inside the Rangers half. Quickly regaining his feet McCann found McMullan wide on the right wing, the big man wasting little time to pick out McCabe at the back post with a perfect pass which McCabe slammed past Campbell with a first time shot for Newry’s fourth goal.
Goal number five for Newry was perhaps the best of the day. From defence Crilly pitched a pass forward which Grant won on the half way line with a glancing header to Mark Lowry. Lowry toyed with his marker waiting on Johnston to make his run across goal before laying in yet another low cross which Johnston met on the run with a low first time shot which flew into the bottom corner before Campbell had a chance to react.
That was to be the final goal of the day although Newry had one more chance with time running out, Paddy Mooney who had another strong game in the home defence, venturing up field for a McCabe corner unlucky to see his volley blocked on the Rangers goal line by a covering defender.
Raymie Byrne, Newry assistant manager who was in charge for the game was content with his team’s performance “We went 4-4-2 today with Keith Johnston and Sean McMullan up top and from the kick off we looked dangerous. It was a credit to the players how many goal scoring opportunities we created against a very good and well organised Ballymacash team. The intensity and shape of the team was excellent with the players understanding the importance of getting back to winning ways. In all a great team performance full of character and fight!”
Newry City’s next match is on Saturday, 21st November at home to Cliftonville Olympic in the Intermediate Cup, kick off 1:30 pm.
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Crilly, Edgar, Mooney, Mullen, McMahon, McCann, Grant, Johnston, McMullan, McCabe, Subs: Lowry, Curran, Martin, Wilson, Kerr