On a chilly early afternoon in Newry, on a pitch which some would argue hadn’t fully thawed yet, South got off to a solid start keeping things tight at the back and hitting the leaders on the break, but for a good portion of the game things were level.
South defended well, but after about 20 mins the Fourths conceded a short corner. After a mix up in roles for the defending team, the Newry striker had a free shot on goal and thundered the ball right into the bottom corner.
South, as usual, responded well and got themselves level through Jonny Sykes, on his return from injury. After an excellent shot from Adam Pyper was saved, the keeper found himself in no-man’s land, and Sykes just pushed the ball into a gaping net.
However Newry managed to rekindle their lead shortly before half time, when four South players were taken out of the game by one pass. The keeper was left to fend for himself against three Newry players, he didn’t really stand a chance.
The score was 2-1 at half time.
South started the second half well, and won a series of short-corners, but due to an unfamiliar pitch, they weren’t as well drilled as they had been the rest of the season and South were unable to convert.
After this, Newry turned up the heat, but South were resilient and the defence kept them in it for a long period of time due to some heroic tackles and clearances from Steven Kay, Andrew Smylie, Alan Smith and Andy Hanley at the back, and a few top saves from Andy Cameron in goals.
But eventually the wall was broken and Newry were awarded a short corner. It was well converted after a drag flick flew into the top corner, off the post and in.
This seemed to demoralise all South players but the back five. They held out for another 10 minutes and mounted a few counter attacks, but it was only a matter of time before Newry managed another goal from an excellent poacher’s touch, on the turn into the far post.
In the end, 4-1 was a harsh scoreline on South, their defence didn’t deserve four goals against them but in the end the destination of the 3 points could not be disputed.
South face a tricky third away game in a row this weekend against Civil and will need to improve. However the resilience and unwillingness to give up by all players must be commended and there were plenty of positives to take away from the Newry Olympic pitch.
Thanks must go to Newry as they provided two umpires for the first half.