Junior A, Div 1B, Newport Town AFC 4-2 Southend

Sunday, April 7 2019 (Derryleigh Park)

Scorers: Brian O’Sullivan 3 & James Lynch

In Div 1B, the third-placed A team welcomed seventh-placed Southend in a game that we knew we had to win in order to maintain the pressure on the top two teams, Kilfrush & Hill Celtic. Southend arrived not intent in making up the numbers and put it up to Newport from the very first whistle. The home side struggled to get into any sort of rhythm in the early stages and were making hard work of things in front of a decent crowd. Newport finally broke the deadlock when Dave Kennedy cleared the ball from a corner and Brian Clemy O’Sullivan picked up the ball midway on the left in the Southend half. He had one defender and the keeper to beat and made some space to expertly fire home to the far corner of the goal from the left edge of the box. Just 3 minutes later, Clemy had another great chance but his shot flew over the bar.

In the 27th minute, somewhat against the run of play, Southend scored the equaliser, when Newport failed to deal properly with a corner and the loose ball was picked up their player who brilliantly scored from the edge of the box. Newport continued to create chances but were struggling to test the keeper. In the 43rd minute, Davy Ryan found himself in space in the box after Paul Ryan slipped a lovely pass through but his shot was well-saved by the keeper who managed to push the ball over the bar. The half-time whistle saw the score remain 1-1.

Newport continued to push forward in the second half and created chances but couldn’t find the target to score the second goal. In the 69th minute the visitors stunned the home support when they latched onto a poor clearance and punished Newport with a decent strike. This wasn’t part of the script as a loss would put a massive dent in our promotion challenge.

A few minutes later, both sides were reduced to 10 men after players got to know one another a little better. This change in personnel seemed to impact on the visitors more and in the 78th minute, Newport scored the equaliser when Clemy scored with a cross / shot that completely flat-footed the keeper. Newport were not beginning to turn the screw and just 4 minutes later, substitute James Lynch, tapped the ball home from close range after a low-drilled cross from the left wing by another substitute, Nathan Hartigan to make it 3-2 much to the audible relief of the home crowd. Clemy wrapped up his hat-trick with his 25th goal of the season, and secured the 3 points on offer in the 85th minute to make it 4-2 and in turn, close the gap on the top two.

This was a game that could have slipped away from us but great credit is due to the lads for once again digging deep and finishing the stronger side and in the end were full value for the win. Newport have 6 league games remaining and now lie 9 points behind league leaders Kilfrush, but we have 2 games in hand and are 6 points behind second-placed Hill Celtic with 1 game in hand. Only two sides get promoted at the end of the season and it will be two of these three sides who will be going up to Div 1A. We still have to play both these sides in Derryleigh Park in massive games, but Marc Barry and his players are only concerned with taking one game at a time, with the next game taking place next Thursday at 6.30pm, when Caherdavin are the visitors to Derryleigh Park.

Match Squad: Harry Ryan, Kevin O’Brien, Mark McGuire, Elliott Slattery, Christy O’Connor, Davy Ryan, Paul Ryan, Jimmy Fyfe, Dave Kennedy, Peter O’Sullivan, Brian O’Sullivan (C), Sean Ryan, James Lynch, Nathan Hartigan, Darren Collins & Jack Noble