Newry City maintained their push for a play-off position in Championship One with a hard fought single goal win away to Knockbreda on Saturday. While the win came courtesy of another goal from Mark McCabe much of the plaudits must go to a solid defensive display in which John Boyle and in particular Dara Noonan stood out to ensure Newry’s third clean sheet in a row. After the game it was that clean sheet which pleased Newry manager Darren Mullen “After a sluggish start I thought we were very good for the remainder of the first half. The movement, intensity and link play that was badly missing last week was there in abundance and we should have been more than one goal up at half time. The second half was a sluggish affair and we made hard work of what should have been an easier game. However, that’s three wins in a row with no goals conceded and we have reacted really well to what has been our only defeat in our last 17 games. We are learning to grind out results and I’m sure we will need to do more of the same before the season is finished. It now sets us up for what should be a good game away to the league leaders next Saturday in Derry.”
While the home side had much of the opening possession the first sight of goal came Newry’s way, Mark Hughes setting McCabe with a shooting opportunity from the edge of the box, Knockbreda keeper Jason Craighwell with a comfortable save. At the other end it took a superbly timed tackle from Paddy Mooney inside his own penalty area to nick the ball away from Kyle Mackie to protect the Newry goal. Maintaining the pressure Knockbreda spent much of the next 10 minutes in the Newry half and while they never really tested Steven Maguire they did force a series of corners, Newry relying on a fine block from Decky Carville to keep their goal intact.
As the league standings suggested they should Newry gradually imposed themselves on proceedings and with 25 minutes on the clock a long pass from Carville behind the Knockbreda defence exploited the speed of McCabe, the striker shrugging off centre half Ryan Arthur before winning a race for the ball with the ‘Breda keeper and squaring the ball to Jimmy Walker, home defenders getting back in time to deflect Walkers effort over the crossbar. It was now the visitors turn to force a series of corners and having gone close courtesy of a header from Darren King, which landed just over the bar, Newry made the next corner count, Noonan rising highest to power a header on goal, the ball rebounding down into a ruck of players, McCabe like all good goal scorers the first to react to stab the ball home from close range to give Newry an advantage they held to the break.
While the teams swapped chances throughout the second half amazingly neither were able to grab that important second goal. The home side threatened first, Kyle Mackie setting up Nathan McVeigh 25 yards from goal, McVeigh electing to pitch the ball over Maguire but got too much on his shot which dropped over the cross bar. Newry were next up, Carville finding Thomas McCann some 30 yards from goal, McCann’s losing his marker with his first touch before electing to shoot from distance, unfortunate to see his sweetly struck shot sail straight into the clutches of Craighwell. McCabe was giving the Knockbreda defence lots of trouble and on the hour mark his pace once again created a goal scoring opportunity, the striker catching up with a long pass from Mark Hughes on the left corner of the penalty area before turning back across goal and curling the ball just the wrong side of the far post with the keeper beaten. With Newry very much on top they handed Knockbreda a gilt edge chance to equalize. Having players committed forward for a corner Newry over elaborated on the right wing culminating in a Knockbreda interception and a break into the Newry half, Curtis Dempster beating the advancing Maguire to the ball only to be foiled by Mooney sweeping behind his keeper.
The best passing movement of the afternoon almost secured the game for Newry after 77 minutes, Walker picking up the forward run of Mark Hughes who tricked his way to the end line before pulling the back for Carville, his first time shot producing a fine diving save from Craighwell. There was still time for two passages of play which could have changed the game. First a rare moment of sloppy defending by Newry presented a glorious opportunity for Dempster to level the score, this time it was Maguire who bailed out his defence getting enough on Dempsters shot to deflect it up in the air, play appearing to be in slow motion as the ball dropped over the crossbar much to the relief of the Newry contingent.
The visitors really should have made sure of the points with time running out when a Knockbreda player inadvertently turned the ball into his own half straight into the path of McCabe who had timed his run perfectly. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the opinion of the referee’s assistant who immediately and incorrectly raised his flag for off side undoubtedly putting some doubt into the head of McCabe who continued towards goal but shot tamely straight at the home keeper, McCabes disappointment raised with the realisation that referee Diarmuid Harrigan had correctly waved play on. Fortunately, the miss was not costly with no further chances Newry had already done enough to secure the points.
Next Saturday Newry travel away to Institute FC, the Newry Travel Club Bus will be departing from the Stonebridge at 10.45am sharp. All are welcome.
Cover Photo: Goal Scorer Mark McCabe & Man of the Match Dara Noonan.
Newry Team: Maguire, Noonan, Mooney, King, Boyle, McCann, Walker, Carville, McCabe, Johnston, M Hughes. Subs: Havern, Mullen, McArdle, S Hughes, Cunningham.
Knockbreda Team: Craighwell, Young, Culbert, McVeigh, Arthur, Hamill, Mackle, Newberry, Watts, O’Hanlon, McBurney. Subs: Dempster, Pike, Cafolla, Rice, Atkinson.