Newry get stuck in Lough

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Newry get stuck in Lough thumbnailNEWRY Captain Mark Hughes eyes up Loughgall's Connor Mullen at Lakeview Park.

NEWRY City AFC manager Darren Mullen insists that his focus is on Friday's (March 2) clash away to Portadown following Saturday's disappointing 1-1 draw at Loughgall.


The result meant that Institute pulled further ahead at the top of the Bluefin Championship table, but, more importantly, Newry increased their lead over Ballyclare by a point as results elsewhere fell favourably to the City side.

Still, it was a game Newry should have been capable of winning but they didn't deliver the performance expected by their fans and management, which frustrated the City boss.

"We didn't do enough to win the game," said Mullen.

"We didn't create enough chances and I thought first half we were too narrow, too laboured and we didn't move the ball quick enough.

"It suited them [Loughgall] when it was central and condensed in midfield. It was up to us to move it wide and do that early and we didn't do it. We got bogged down overplaying it. We didn't go long when the opportunity was on to go in behind the full-backs, and then we went long when it wasn't on.

"Our decision making in the first half was poor. Even for their goal, there were a couple of mistakes leading up to it. It should have been closed down and we gave the ball away in the wrong area and we got punished for it.

"In the second half we had all the play, but I don't think we did enough to win it." Indeed despite dominating, Newry failed to hit the target from play during the entire second half.

By then the heavy pitch was cut into muck and Loughgall were happy to allow Newry to keep the ball and defend deeply and to be fair Loughgall defended well.

Newry actually started the game well and looked confident of taking the early lead as Mark McCabe tested the keeper, former Newry stopper Garth Buchanan.

Man of the Match Decky Carville struck the side netting and Keith Johnston's cleverly angled volley was also cleared off the goal-line by Buchanan.

However, the game changed completely when Jimmy Walker was caught in possession and from just inside his own half Marcus Dallas took a chance and his long-range effort took a deflection and dropped over Stephen Maguire's head into the net.

It was the third time in as many games that Newry had fallen behind but they failed to react with composure, instead their play was ragged and rushed, something which annoyed their manager.

"We seem to be giving ourselves a mountain to climb every week going 1-0 down and we shouldn't have to do that to win a game," said Mullen.

"The second half, for all our play, we didn't trouble them enough in terms of shots on target.

"We started the game well I thought and then for their goal we gave the ball away and there was a lucky deflection along with it.

"After that, it wasn't good enough and it was easy for them to keep their shape once the ball was in front of them in the middle.

"We needed to try and get in behind them, which we didn't do, and that's why we changed our shape." Still, Newry pushed for an equaliser and Johnston was through one-on-one on goal but from close range he tried a deft chip, with Buchanan easily gathering.

Carville's header was cleared off the line after Walker whipped in a cross and the same man screwed his shot narrowly wide.

Darren King replaced Walker after the break and Mark Hughes moved further up the pitch and in his first foray forward he was clipped in the box to be awarded a fortunate penalty.

It was the lifeline Newry needed and Carville confidently converted to his right, sending Buchanan the opposite direction.

Newry's tails were up and McCabe got in front of his marker to strike towards goal but he steered it narrowly wide.

McCabe then was charging down his right touchline, when he was accidentally tripped by the lines-man and play continued but the chance was gone.

Then Stephen Hughes made an excellent run into the box, he forced Buchanan off his line and fed to Johnston and the keeper looked to have fouled, but the city striker stayed on his feet but failed to get his shot away. It looked like luck had deserted the Newry side.

"In the second half, we got in behind them a few times but didn't do enough to trouble them. Sometimes you're going to get days like that where you have all the play and you just need that bit of luck," said Mullen.

"The chances where Johnsy went through, I'm not sure if he had gone down whether we might have got a penalty. Even staying on his feet when Bucky [Gareth Buchanan] was out, it was still an opportunity to punish them for it and we didn't do it.

"In games like this, you need to take whatever chances you have and that was an option that we should have done better with.

"Sometimes you have to make your own luck. Maybe we've had our bit of luck in coming back from being down against Ballyclare two games ago.

"But we needed to trouble them a lot more than we did in the second half and that's what we need to do on Friday night.

It's going to be another tough game. It will probably suit us better on a bigger pitch, but that's no excuse for today."

With Marty Havern and Neill Mullen coming off the pitch Newry tried to adopt a more direct ball approach, but there was no last ditch heroics, but almost disaster as Loughgall substitute Stefan Mc- Masters flashed his shot across goal and Andrew Hoey needed just a touch but he failed to connect, much to Newry's relief.

"We need to just lift ourselves pretty quickly. We knew the split was going to be difficult and I had a feeling that today was going to be a difficult game, as I'm sure Friday night will be," said Mullen.

"But all we can do is keep going. We're unbeaten in it [the split]. We need to keep ourselves right up there and who knows what will happen come the end of the fixtures.

"We didn't get too high when we were winning last week and we can't get ourselves too low. We haven't come away with a defeat and it's a draw that keeps us right up there.

"Even after last week, I said that everyone would still like to be in Institute's position. That was a big win for them today [they beat Ballyclare 1-0]. All we can do is win our own games. If it's a case of getting promoted through a play-off, then great. We've been there before.

"Institute have been out in front from early on and are in a really strong position. All we can do is look after our own results.

"Friday night is a big game for us and if we can get a win there then it puts a greater distance between ourselves and Portadown.

"But, even after today, the way you look at it is that we're now four clear of Ballyclare. We have to try and take the positives from it.

"Yes, we've fallen a bit more behind Institute but, at the same time, we're still well consolidated in second place. It's just a case of forgetting about it very quickly and moving forward to Portadown now on Friday night." The Newry City Travel Club bus to Portadown on Friday night (March 2) will depart from the Stonebridge at 6.30pm.

LOUGHGALL: Gareth Buchanan, Dale Montgomery, Ricky Copeland, Mark Stewart, Peter Campbell, Conor Mullen, Andrew Hoey, Marcus Dallas, Steven Ferguson, Paul McDowell. Nathaniel Ferris.

NEWRY CITY AFC: Steven Maguire, Kevin McArdle, Mark Hughes, Dara Noonan, John Boyle, Thomas McCann, Jimmy Walker (Darren King 51'), Decky Carville, Mark McCabe, Stephen Hughes (Marty Havern 75'), Keith Johnston (Neill Mullen 84').


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