Another three points as City lead play-off race.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Another three points as City lead play-off race. thumbnail NEWRY fullback Paddy Mooney is tackled by Loughgall's Connor Mullen at the Showgrounds on Saturday Picture:Brendan Monaghan.

IT might not have been pretty. It might not have been thrill-a-minute stuff. But not one Newry City fan at the Showgrounds on Saturday would have traded the three points gained against Loughgall in place of prettiness or entertainment value.


With just three games left in the Championship (two of them at home) it's all about getting over the line. It's all about accumulating those precious points. It's all about winning, regardless of how ugly.

And Keith Johnston's 12-minute winner, a sound defensive display and a clean sheet ticked all the boxes.

Newry City manager Darren Mullen agreed with that assessment as he spoke after the game, saying: "That's two 1-0 wins in a row. When you are going for a league title or promotion whatever manner you get it, it's ok.

It might be hairy enough during the game but you'll take a win. At this stage of the season it's not about playing pretty football, it's just about winning games and winning them in whatever manner possible.

"We could have made it a bit easier for ourselves. We had a few chances to make it 2-0 and we didn't put those chances away. Still we defended well when we needed to.

"When you're playing against a team that's not going for promotion, they can throw caution to the wind.

When they put the ball into the box we knew there was going to be a bit of pressure. But the boys stood up to it well and we deserved the three points.

"I would take three one nils in the next three games.

It's not good for the heart but it's the same three points you get for four nils." On the positives to take from the win, the boss said: "We are now seen as a team that's hard to break down.

We have conceded the fewest goals in the league. If we need to win ugly so be it. We have been playing good football all season and when we need to grind out results like we did last week and today, we have shown we can do that. The pleasing thing is that we're hard to break down. Even if we are not playing as well as we possibly can, we're still winning games.

And that's the sign of a good team." Going into the match City were missing quite a few influential players. Skipper Mark Hughes was suspended while Kevin McArdle, Jimmy Walker and Darren King were late casualties due to injuries.

But Newry got a break after 12 minutes. Stephen Hughes played in the prolific Keith Johnston and the wee man kept his cool brilliantly to side-foot past the advancing Loughgall keeper Gareth Buchanan and into the bottom corner of the net.

A vital goal and one that gave Newry a little breathing space. The home side were dominating play but not creating a lot of opportunities. Though on 26 minutes they could have netted again. Thomas McCann and Johnston combined to set up Mark McCabe who was one-on-one with the visiting keeper but Buchanan left his line to deny Newry's top marksman.

Three minutes later City had another chance. Mc-Cabe crossed from the left with Johnston nodding down to Decky Carville who had two efforts on goal.

A defender blocked the first while the second shot was tamely hit and easy for Buchanan.

And with just seconds left to the break it seemed Carville was hacked down in the box but referee Gareth Stewart waved away the City protests.

In the opening half Newry did all the pressing while Stephen Maguire in the City goals didn't have to deal with a single shot.

The second half would be a little different. The home team were still best but the visitors came into the game a bit more. On 47 minutes Stephen Hughes tested Buchanan with a power drive from the edge of the box but the keeper tipped it over the bar.

On 55 minutes Loughgall had their first scoring opportunity but Maguire confidently got a hand to a Richard Copeland header to turn it over the top.

Newry might have doubled their tally on 62 minutes with their best move of the match. Conor McCaul played in Johnston down the right. The speedy wee man did superbly to get away from the Loughgall defence and he hit a sizzling ball towards the target.

Buchanan beat out the drive but only to Stephen Hughes who unfortunately blazed over.

Two minutes later there were appeals for a penalty kick when Mark McCabe shot from a tight angle with a defender's hand appearing to divert the ball away from the goal. Again referee Stewart waved away the City protests but perhaps this time he might have had a point as the Loughgall man was really close to the shot and perhaps couldn't have got his hand out of the way in time.

The last Newry chance of the game came on 82 minutes. The excellent Chris McMahon played in Decky Carville but a defender deflected the big man's shot wide of the post. Again the referee's decision was a cause for debate as the official gave a kick-out instead of a corner.

The closing minutes were tense as the visitors pushed up for an equaliser but the city defence, marshalled brilliantly by John Boyle and with Dara Noonan outstanding, held firm. Three points gained.

Darren Mullen was happy with the win but he admitted that he has less than a full squad to take into the final three games. The boss said: "We are down to bare bones. Jimmy (Walker) and Kevin (McArdle) both failed fitness tests before the game and Engine (Darren King) failed in the warm-up.

So we had changes to make to the starting eleven and that's not ideal. That's where other people are ready to come in. Jackie Cunningham played for the Reserves last week and came into the first team today and played his part. We haven't a massive squad so it's a case of everybody hanging in there and playing their part when called upon.

"We have a two-week break but Decky (Carville) is suspended and Hughsy (Mark Hughes) is still suspended.

We'll be glad of the break as some of the players are feeling a bit sore and tired. We'll not do too much this week and then we'll get ourselves ready for the Portadown game (on Friday, April 20). Mark Hughes has one more game to serve his suspension.

He'll miss the Portadown game but he'll be avail able for the last two games against Harland and Wolff.

Decky will miss Portadown and the first Harland and Wolff game.

That's when you need other players to come in and play their part. And in fairness the boys have done that. Conor (McCaul) has come in today as have Paddy Mooney and Chris McMahon, players who haven't played in awhile. Chris wasn't even in the squad last week.

Those boys came in and played their parts well. But we're going to need everybody from now until the end of the season," concluded Darren Mullen.

Newry City: Stephen Maguire, Dara Noonan, Paddy Mooney, Chris McMahon, John Boyle, Thomas McCann, Conor McCaul, Decky Carville, Mark McCabe, Stephen Hughes and Keith Johnston with subs: Ruairi Cunningham for Mooney (73), Neil Mullen for Hughes (90), Marty Havern, Robbie Mackin and Jervis McCaul not used.

Loughgall: Gareth Buchanan, Ben Neill, Jamie Rae, Richard Copeland, Mark Stewart, Marcus Dallas, Connor Mullen, Dale Montgomery, Gary Liggett, Nathaniel Ferris and Andrew Hoey with subs: Mark McConnell, Stefan McMaster and Paul McDowell.



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