Newry City 3-3 Crewe United
Newry staged a dramatic late comeback to salvage their unbeaten league record against Crewe United on an afternoon of high drama at a sunny, but cold, Newry Showgrounds. A close encounter had been predicted, the visitors having lost only once in the league themselves, but few expected the two sides with the best defensive records in Intermediate A to share six goals. As it transpired, Crewe looked set for victory before Newry’s late salvo stunned the Glenavy side.
There was little sign of what was to follow during a cagey opening, with Crewe defending deep and Newry finding it difficult to create any meaningful chances. The first incident of note came just after the quarter hour mark when Newry were awarded a free kick inside the box, after Crewe goalkeeper Stephen Harbinson picked up a back pass on the six yard line. The keeper redeemed himself with a fine save from Jimmy Walker’s free, before Mark Patton’s follow up was cleared off the Crewe line by a defender, with Newry making loud appeals for a handball.
Sean McMullan and Kevin McArdle had further half chances for Newry before Crewe struck with their first real attack of note. The lively Mark McCullough struck from distance and Peter Murphy helped his effort round the post, but from the resulting corner, big defender Stephen Curley was left in acres of space to fire home.
Newry looked to hit back quickly but were getting little change out of the well drilled visiting rear-guard, with Crewe beginning to look increasingly dangerous on the break. However, with half time approaching, Newry won a corner and when Mark Patton’s header was blocked; the ball fell to Ian Curran who blasted home the equaliser.
Buoyed by the goal, Newry started the second moiety on the front foot and had a great chance to take the lead when McArdle burst through and faced by the advancing Harbinson, he seemed to be caught between passing or shooting, ultimately doing neither and the danger was cleared. How costly that would prove as Crewe immediately worked the ball up the field to McCullough who ran in behind the Newry defence and chipped Murphy to restore the Crewe lead.
Newry responded well, McArdle bursting through again, but this time the midfielder was bundled over, with the home side again claiming for a penalty. Nothing given and things took another turn for the worse as almost immediately Newry went further behind. They were caught on their heels in midfield and Crewe defender William McCracken will do well to catch one as cleanly as the effort he rifled in to the top corner from distance, with Murphy rooted to the spot.
Newry manager Darren Mullen had seen enough and sprang Mark Lowry and Declan Carville from the bench, as he sought to ask different questions of a Crewe defence that had in the main dealt well with everything Newry threw at them. It took a while, but gradually the pace and running power of Carville in particular began to nudge Crewe out of their comfort zone.
Crewe were now on the back foot, but aside from a Harbinson save from Walker, Newry, for all their possession, were struggling to create real chances. McMullan almost got on the end of an exquisite through ball from Carville, but for once the big man’s touch let him down and Harbinson smothered.
As the game entered the final ten minutes it looked as if Newry were about to surrender their proud home record before they were handed a life line. Mark Lowry’s quick feet were too much for Craig Leworthy who scythed down the Newry man inside the box. McMullan was the man to step up and he slotted home an inch perfect penalty. No margin for error here, as Harbinson went the right way, but McMullan’s penalty was right into the corner.
Newry had a sniff of something but Crewe weren’t for capitulating lightly. Indeed it took until the final minute for the home team to create another clear chance, a lovely passing move releasing full back Chris McMahon, but his shot from a tight angle was saved by Harbinson. There was, however, a final sting in the tail as the game entered injury time. Ian Curran strode forward to deliver a long ball to McMullan who controlled well and although his effort was blocked, the ball fell to Neil Mullen who slotted home to the delight of the Newry support. Three goals in four games for the manager’s brother, but none as important as this.
Speaking after the game, manager Mullen commented that the game proved to be every bit as tough as he’d anticipated; “they are an experienced, well organised side and after how the game panned out I’m happy with the point. We had a lot of possession throughout the game but gave a lot of ball away and got punished with two very well taken goals in the second half. When we were 1-3 down the message to the players was that we are now being tested and can we respond. The introduction of Mark and Decky gave us the pace and movement we needed to open them up and once we got back to 2-3 I knew we would get another chance. It was a very cool finish from Neil as a makeshift centre forward and shows we have goals throughout the team. There’s a lot we need to improve on from this game, but that said we remain unbeaten and the manner of our comeback keeps confidence high within the squad. There’s a great spirit within this group and they refuse to accept defeat until the final whistle. Crewe will also take points from the other top teams but all we can do is focus on ourselves for the remaining 12 league games.”
The first of the remaining twelve takes place at the Showgrounds on Tuesday evening when Newry host Seapatrick (7.45pm) and City follow that up with a trip to Ballymacash Rangers next Saturday (2.15pm). The Supporter’s Club bus leaves the Stone Bridge at 1pm on Saturday and all are welcome to come along and support the team.
Newry City: Murphy, Mooney, McMahon, Mullen, Curran, McCann, Walker, McArdle (Lowry), McMullan, Patton (Carville), Johnston (Hand). Subs not used: Edgar, Richmond.