Just about as good as it gets was the unanimous opinion of the Newry supporters leaving Loughgall on Friday night after they watched their team outclass the home side to record a 4 – 0 win courtesy of a goal from Stephen Hughes and a super hat trick from centre forward Mark McCabe. And while it takes a complete team performance to win by this margin away from home it was a virtuoso display from Jimmy Walker which lit up the 90 minutes, the midfielder displaying his range of skills to spell danger for the home side every time he was on the ball. Indeed, it was a floated free kick from Walker which produced the first goal after only five minutes, Walkers ball to the back post did however need a brave challenge from Darren King to head the ball back across goal to leave McCabe with the simplest of tasks to finish from close range. McCabe’s second goal after 14 minutes was very different, although once more it was Walker who provided the ammunition, a long pass from Walker from inside his own half perfectly weighted to bounce into the stride of McCabe who wasted little time blasting a first time shot high into the roof of the Loughgall net from the corner of the penalty area.
It was almost three for Newry before the 20-minute mark, McCabe holding the ball up before releasing a short pass to Stephen Hughes who swung a cross into the danger area perfect for the arrival of Decky Carville, Gareth Buchannan somehow stopping the ball from crossing the goal line. Loughgall got sight of the Newry goal after 22 minutes, Marc McConnell getting behind the Newry defence to shoot across goal, Stephen Maguire diving to parry, the clearance completed by King.
The game was all but over as a contest after 26 minutes when the home side were reduced to 10 men, Walker skipping past the Loughgall players once too often for Marcus Dallas who lunged with both feet raised into the Newry man, referee Andrews who was excellent throughout without hesitation showing a straight red card. On the half hour mark Newry had another chance to make it three, Carville making room to take the ball from Maguire before spotting the run of Keith Johnston behind the Loughgall defence. With Buchannan rushing from his line Johnston pitched his shot over the advancing keeper, the ball destined for the net only for a last gasp sliding clearance from Craig Taylor.
Although Newry were enjoying the majority of possession it was their keeper Steven Maguire who had to make the final saves of the half, after 34 minutes he had to dive to turn a shot from Jamie Douglas around the base of his post while minutes later he flung himself to the opposite post to turn a Dale Montgomery free kick for a corner to leave the half time score 2-0 for Newry.
With the points more or less in the bag Newry were content to play keep ball in the opening period of the second half, the game coming to life again just short of the hour mark. Again it was Newry’s two main men on the night involved, Walker standing over a free kick some 25 yards from goal spotting an early run from McCabe, Walkers side foot pass turned on goal by McCabe. And although Buchannan blocked the strikers first time shot there was little the keeper could do with Stephen Hughes clinical finish from the rebound to put an end to any lingering Loughgall hopes.
With Walker pulling the strings it was now a case of how many Newry would score and though chances came and went, goal number four was worth waiting for, a sweeping move from defence ended with Kevin McArdle playing the ball wide to Stephen Hughes, Hughes taking time to pick out McCabe arriving at the back post, McCabe sealing a deserved hat trick with a neat side foot volley to round off the scoring and a win which satisfied Newry manager Darren Mullen “After last week’s disappointing end to the game the players knew themselves we needed a positive reaction and I couldn’t have asked for much more from them in this game. It was a dominant performance from start to finish and my only gripe at half time was that we hadn’t scored more. We never looked troubled but that is only due to the work that goes on from the front to back. Mark will rightly get the headlines for a terrific hat-trick but every one of the 14 that played did exactly what was required of them. We were solid defensively, our link play in midfield was a joy to watch at times and thankfully the forward players did what we know they can to finish those moves off in style. One of the pleasing things about the team tonight is that eight of those starting played for us last year and have adapted brilliantly to a higher standard of football. No one epitomises that progress more so than Jimmy Walker who has been with us from our first season and looked top class this evening. We are on a terrific run but there’s way too much experience on and off the pitch to get carried away. Next week’s game offers another test against the league leaders but one that we are really looking forward to.”
Next up for Newry is a home match against league leaders, Ballyclare Comrades on Saturday 18th November, KO 3pm.
Photographs Courtesy of Brendan Monaghan Photography.
Newry City AFC: Maguire, M Hughes, McArdle, Boyle, King, McCann, Walker, Carville, McCabe, S Hughes, Johnston. Subs: Havern, Cunningham, McKeown, Hutchinson, Mullen.