A game won with a wonder strike from Sean Hand but this was a complete team performance from Newry City starting from goal keeper Peter Murphy who made some crucial saves, a defence superbly marshalled by Neil Mullen, a mid field led by Man of the Match Decky Carville who covered every blade of grass through to Stephen McCabe who showed when introduced as a substitute with 15 minute remaining that returning from injury he retains all the tricks and pace that he has displayed for years.
Fresh from a routine win over Seapatrick Newry would have been travelled to the Lisburn venue expecting a much tougher examination from a Ballymacash team who are better than their mid table position suggests and that’s exactly what transpired, the visitors delighted to hear the final whistle which sealed a solitary goal win and a vital three points.
Newry started off on the front foot, Keith Johnston and Sean McMullan combining to feed the ball into the path of Decky Carville, his shot from inside the box blocked by the legs of the advancing Ballymacash keeper Jonathon Lecky.
At this stage chances were few and far between, indeed it was the 20th minute before the second shot at either goal, Newry’s Kevin McArdle picking the ball up on the half way line and advancing before cracking in a low shot which Leckey spilled forward, fortunate to see his defence clear as Johnston followed up. Newrys next chance minutes later was along the same lines, McArdle controlling a scuffed Leckey kick out and again moving forward into a shooting position this time pulling his shot wide.
The home side came close on the half hour mark when Ian Metcalf tried his luck from 30 yards from goal, his dipping shot cannoning of the Newry crossbar with Murphy stranded.
Newry quickly replied with a chance of their own, McMullan holding the ball up for Johnston to cross to the back post where Hand won a cushioned header, the ball hacked away from inside the small box just as Carville arrived.
Newry opened the scoring on 38 minutes with a wonderful goal, created and scored by their two Dundalk based players, McArdle and Hand. Picking the ball up on the half way line McArdle drove forward skipping past challenges until he arrived wide at the junction of the penalty area where he stood on the ball to stop it dead, setting it perfectly for Hand to strike first time with the inside of his right foot, the ball curling perfectly to nestle into the far top corner of the Ballymacash net to put Newry a goal up.
That lead was maintained until half time thanks to a fine save from Murphy who was fast of his line as Ballymacash danger man Kenny Campbell bore down on goal, the Newry keeper bravely spreading himself amongst feet to smother the ball.
The second half was fairly even with both sides making chances. On 50 minutes a diagonal ball from Paddy Mooney cut out the Ballymacash defence, Carville timing his run perfectly to head the ball past the advancing keeper desperately unfortunate to see the ball bounce before the base of the post and veer the wrong side. On the hour mark Carville won another header in the box, this time from a Graeme Edgar free kick, Carville’s nod down falling to McMullan who swilled to shoot straight into the mid drift of Leckey who saved.
On 70 minutes Murphy produced one of the saves of the season after a Ballymacash corner was powerfully headed towards goal from close range, the Newry keeper with lightening reactions springing full length to tip the ball around the post for a corner.
Fresh legs were needed for Newry and with a full bench to choose from Newry introduced Mark Patton and Stephen McCabe, both player’s presenting new challenges to a tiring home defence.
On 85 minutes McCabe created the chance the visitors had been waiting on, beating his marker and from the end line firing in a low cross which fell perfectly for Carville who went for a precision finish into the corner but saw his effort go just the wrong side of the post. Fortunately it wasn’t costly as the Newry defence stood firm with the home side throwing everything forward as the game moved into injury time and beyond, that wonder strike from Hand remaining the only goal in a keenly contested game. After the game Newry manager Darren Mullen was particularly satisfied with his team “This was a big win for us in what I knew was going to be a very difficult game. We came here last year and didn’t put up a fight but we have a completely different mentality this season that is showing its rewards. Sometimes you have to battle to get a result and that was the case in this game. It was a tough game for the full 90 minutes but we stood up to the physical challenge and were worthy winners in the end. It’s not the easiest place to come to and I expect them to take points off other teams but all we are doing at the minute is taking one game at a time. We now have a squad of players who not only are talented but are willing to work hard and buy into what we are trying to do at the club. That’s Sean Hands 3rd goal since he came back and will rightly get credit for a super goal but it was a team performance from start to finish. While we are happy with the win its soon forgot about and we now look forward to hosting Tandragee.’
Newry City AFC: Murphy, McMahon, Edgar, Mullen, Curran, McArdle, Walker, Johnston, McMullan, Carville, Hand Subs: Patton, Lowry, McCabe, McVerry, Mooney.
Newrys next match is against Tandragee at The Showgrounds on Tuesday night, 15th March kick off 7:45 pm. On Saturday Newry City travel to Lower Maze for a 2:15 kick off. Newry City travel club bus will leave the Stonebridge at 1pm.