Two goals from Keith Johnston and another from Jimmy Walker won the points for Newry at Limavady on Saturday. While the goal scorer’s will always grab the headlines this was a complete team performance from Newry not least from Jack Heaney who was solid on his league debut in goals, Darren King and John Boyle who have forged a strong partnership in the centre of the Newry defence and Thomas McCann who seemed to be in the right place any time there was any hint of danger to the Newry goal.
It could however have been a very different story were it not for an excellent save from Heaney in the opening minute, quickly off his line to get the better of a one on one with Robbie Hume, Heaney giving the Limavady top scorer little sight of goal before blocking Humes shot with his legs.
An important stop for Newry and one which they never looked back from. With five minutes on the clock Newry created a good chance of their own, Stephen Hughes releasing Johnston on the right wing, his cross taking the home defence out of the game giving Mark McCabe an aerial battle with Limavady keeper Paul Well’s, McCabe bravely getting his head to the ball a second before he was clattered by the keeper, referee Chris Morrison inexplicably waving away vociferous Newry claims for a penalty. McCabe’s movement was causing real problems to the Limavady defence, the Newry striker holding the ball up and winning repeated free kicks on the edge of the penalty area. With 25 minutes on the clock Newry finally made the home side pay for these infringements, free kick maestro Walker stepping up to curl a dead ball around the wall, the pace of Walkers shot together with the wet surface too much for Well’s, the ball squeezing under the keeper’s dive and crossing the goal line despite his attempt to claw it back. Newry continued to dominate possession, their patient passing game creating decent scoring chances for Johnston and McCann, both players narrowly shooting wide. Newry’s superiority had to pay off and with time running out in the first half they doubled their advantage. Starting with a super tackle from McCann deep inside his own half Newry broke forward at pace, Stephen Hughes bringing the ball to the edge of the Limavady box before cutting the defence with a pass into the path of Johnston. From an acute angle Johnston still had lots to do but made light work, drilling a fierce drive across Wells into the far side of the goal for a clinical finish leaving his side 2-0 up at the break.
With Newry content to hold their two-goal advantage the second half began slowly, Walker, McCabe and Johnston all involved in Newry attacks while defensively the visitors were rarely troubled with King and Boyle rock solid in defence. With 70 minutes gone Newry sealed the points. Pressing high up the pitch the visitors forced Limavady’s Ryan Logue into a poorly executed back pass. Similar to Newry’s last game Johnston was again alert to such an opportunity latching onto the loose ball. While his first effort was saved by the advancing Well’s Johnston was not to be denied, picking up the rebound before expertly lobbing the ball over the keeper and into the back of the Limavady goal to put the game out of the home sides reach.
To their credit Limavady refused to give up and pulled a goal back on 80 minutes, for once a crossed ball catching the Newry defence out allowing Gerard Gillan a free header at the back post, Heaney with little chance to save from close range. It was however too little too late to stop Newry running out comfortable winners which pleased Newry manager Darren Mullen “The message to the players before this game was to start getting some consistency in our play rather than just in certain phases of games. Apart from their chance in the first minute I thought it was probably our best performance this season in terms of dominating a game. The work rate throughout the team was exactly what’s needed in this league and thankfully we got our rewards. Considering the amount of injuries we have and losing Kevin McArdle in the warm up it’s a testament to the squad that players are doing so well, especially those playing out of position. It’s also pleasing to be able to give three young lads their Irish league debuts and what they need to do now is continue to work hard to make sure it’s not their last appearance for the senior team. Their inclusion is a testament to the great work Barry Trainor, Gary Redpath and their coaches are doing with the young players at the club. We now have a two-week break which will give us a chance to get some players back from injury.”
Limavady United: Paul Wells, Marcus O’Kane (Jordan Thompson h-t), Andy Devlin, Graham Crown, Johnny Watt (c.), Gary McFadden, Paul Owens, Gerard Gillan, Glenn Law (Aaron Mullan), Ryan Logue (Shane Jennings), Robbie Hume. Substitutes not used: Ray Kelly, Joel Bradley.
Newry City: Jack Heaney, Mark Hughes, Darren King, John Boyle, Chris McMahon, Stephen Hughes (Martin Havern), James Walker, Thomas McCann, Mark McCabe (Aaron Casey), Declan Carville (Robbie Mackin), Keith Johnston. Substitutes not used: Neil Mullen, Kevin McArdle.