Newry City AFC 1-2 Ballymena United
By Paul Alexander
Ballymena United won 2-1 against Newry City in the Danske Bank Premiership at the Newry Showgrounds on Friday evening in their first league visit in just over eight years.
After Friday night’s fixture, United went two points clear at the top of the table. Although Linfield’s 4-2 victory over Cliftonville on Saturday afternoon put the Blues ahead by a single point.
The opening period was slow to begin with although the amount of opportunities increased as it developed. After 13 minutes James Knowles’ corner-kick from the right was headed away by City captain Mark Hughes at the near post.
Hughes led his teammates forward seconds after with his attempt, in line with the away bench, curling close to the top right corner. On 33 minutes Knowles delivered a free-kick from the left wing which was headed forward by Declan Carville.
Visiting goalkeeper Thomas McDermott was tested by Newry’s Thomas McCann three minutes later. Darren King’s early cross was met with a header from McCann which McDermott managed to hold onto.
In the same minute, the Braidmen went ahead through Adam Lecky’s fifth goal of the season in all competitions. Knowles was unlucky to watch his finesse shot hit the inside of the right post, after patiently waiting for the opening, before Lecky tapped in the rebound.
United doubled their lead on 45 minutes when Andy McGrory slid in to direct Reece Glendinning’s right wing cross past Andy Coleman in the home goal. First-half stoppage-time was extended after an initial clash between Mark Hughes and Adam Lecky led to a larger scuffle.
This resulted in bookings for Hughes and Lecky as well as City’s Declan Carville. Newry thought they had got a goal back when Hughes’ corner was sneaked in at the end of the half, but the goal was not given as a free-kick had already been awarded.
The visitors to the Newry Showgrounds could have added to their advantage as the game restarted, although Lecky’s cross from the right was sent wide of the front post by Cathair Friel.
In the 59th minute Friel was on the receiving end of a shoulder barge by Coleman which resulted in the keeper being sent-off. Newry Manager Darren Mullen then opted to take off right-midfielder Stephen Teggart for substitute goalkeeper Steven Maguire.
Maguire made two saves on 66 minutes to stop the Sky Blues going further in front. Friel was first to be denied following his effort from distance. Maguire then also pushed away McGrory’s close-range shot shortly after.
The hosts reduced Ballymena’s two-goal cushion with 68 minutes played when Dale Montgomery thumped the ball in after a cross from the left. Maguire would make a further save on 83 minutes when he got across to meet Tony Kane’s free-kick from distance.
Newry City AFC: Coleman, Mooney (Lavery, 81), Boyle, Noonan, King, Carville, McCann (McCabe, 77), Montgomery, Teggart (Maguire, 61), S. Hughes, M. Hughes [C]
Subs not used: Rush, McArdle, Healy, M. McCullough
Ballymena United: McDermott, S. McCullough, Addis, Ervin [C], Whiteside (Balmer, 46), Reece Glendinning, Knowles (Winchester, 77), McGrory, Kane, Friel (McMurray 77), Lecky
Subs not used: McCauley, Burns, Nolan, Shevlin
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)
In-Touch Man of the Match: Andy McGrory (Ballymena)
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