A goal from Mark McCabe was enough to secure a valuable point for Newry City away at table topping Ballyclare Comrades on Saturday. Having failed to find the net in Newry’s first four games Newry’s centre forward will hope that Saturdays goal will kick start his goal tally for the season. As it is, McCabe’s goal was the perfect answer to the opening goal of the game which came just two minutes earlier, Newry failing to deal with a corner allowing the ball to bounce inside the six-yard box, Ballyclare grateful for the indecision smashing the ball into the roof of the Newry net. It was however the way his team reacted which will have pleased Newry manager Darren Mullen “After playing so well and then to concede a poor goal heads could have gone down but in fairness that didn’t happen and we came back at them almost immediately. Apart from the goal this was a very good performance from start to finish. We had done our homework on Ballyclare and knew they had threats throughout their team so we changed our shape accordingly. For a team that scored six goals last week we restricted them to very little and a draw was the least we deserved. We could have been two up in the first ten minutes but it then became a game of limited chances. I criticised the players for their lack of effort against PSNI but we can have no complaints with how they performed today. We have been finding our feet in this league but are enjoying every minute and now look forward to the home game against Portadown on Friday night.”
Certainly, there was no lack of effort from Newry on Saturday, McCabe close to snatching the lead in the first minute running onto a through ball from Stephen Hughes before lobbing his shot over the advancing Ballyclare keeper, unfortunate to see the ball land the wrong side of the far post. Almost immediately Newry had a second chance to open the scoring, Kevin McArdle pushing forward to release McCabe, his whipped cross turned on goal by Hughes bringing a smart save from Geoff McKinty.
Apart from the Ballyclare goal Newry’s only lapse in an otherwise solid defensive display came after ten minutes, a long high ball into the Newry box allowed to bounce, Ballyclare’s Thomas Robinson latching onto the loose ball only to scuff his shot badly wide. With 35 minutes on the clock Newry were convinced they should have been awarded a penalty, McCabe clearly tugged back by a Ballyclare defender as he chased down a back pass to McKinty, referee Mark Dillon receiving little help from his assistant to spot the offence.
The home side really only threatened the Newry goal from set pieces and with five minutes gone of the second half it took a smart diving save from Kieran Gordon to deny Samuel Mcilveen from a free kick just outside the penalty area. On 70 minutes Newry were handed an opportunity to take the lead when they were awarded an indirect free kick when McKinty handled a back pass, the eleven man Ballyclare wall on the goal line forcing Decky Carville to aim high with his shot which unfortunately flew over the crossbar.
Minutes later Ballyclare grabbed that opening goal, a corner from the right headed back into the box and with hesitancy amongst the Newry players Ballyclare’s Chris Rodgers accepted the opportunity to give Gordon little chance from close range. The Newry reply was almost immediate, Stephen Hughes carrying the ball forward before finding Carville on the left of the Ballyclare penalty area, with only one thing on his mind Carville stepped inside before curling his shot across goal, unlucky to see it canon off the post with McKinty beaten but fortunately for Newry McCabe was switched onto the chance, following into the box as a goal scorer should, perfectly place to turn the rebound into an open goal.
With time running out the home side pushed for a winner but with John Boyle and Neil Mullen clearing everything that came their way the only moment of danger came in the final minute when Michael O’Hanlon got behind the Newry defence, Gordon timing his slide perfectly to gather the ball at the winger’s feet.
Newry next game is on Friday night at The Newry Showgrounds against Portadown, Kick off 7:45pm.
Newry City AFC: Gordon, Cunningham, McArdle, Boyle, Mullen, McMahon, S Hughes, McCann, McCabe, Carville, M Hughes Subs: Walker, Johnston, Patton, Havern, Mackin