NIFL Championship

Newington 0-2 Loughgall

IT was first against ninth in Saturday’s afternoon kick-off, as Newington took on Loughgall at Solitude, and it wasn’t long before the 23-point gap between the two sides started to show on the pitch.

League leaders Loughgall started the brightest, with the likes of Murdock and Walsh, more than comfortable in possession as they played their way out from the back. The Villagers settled in quickly, as wing back Pablo Andrade began to link up well with Hoey down the right-hand side. 

 

Despite the early possession and pressure from Loughgall, the one bright spark for Newington was forward Michael Morgan. The attacker had looked bright after being substituted on for Rice in last week’s defeat at the hands of Institute, and was clearly determined to justify his place in the starting line-up.

As Loughgall began to move further up the pitch, Morgan, on several occasions provided some much-needed respite for his side, holding the ball up well and drawing fouls on the halfway line, allowing his team to get out of their own box, albeit momentarily.

The first big chance of the afternoon fell to Ferris, as a deflected cross from Andrade looped into the air, the Newington backline switched off, allowing Ferris to nip in for a free header, only to be denied by goalkeeper Marc Maybin.

Moments later, and once again the home side’s defence was caught napping – this time Maybin could only parry it down to his right, allowing Robbie Norton to poke home from two yards out. Maybin, justifiably, furious with his back line and the Ton were now 1-0 down.

The highlight of the half however came from a pass from Loughgall forward Nathaniel Ferris. The striker picked the ball up in the right back position before pinging a pass that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Premier League; even leaving spectator and Cliftonville striker Joe Gormley in awe.

The pass just barely missed the jumping head of defender Casey, who needed just a few extra millimetres of length to his hair to get a touch, such was the accuracy of the pass. It fell beautifully at the feet of Maciulaitis, who couldn’t quite find the touch to match the pass.

Chances fell for both Newington and Loughgall right before the whistle, however excellent goalkeeping from Türker and poor finishing from Maciulaitis respectively kept the score line 1-0 going into the break.

A comfortable and steady start to the second half from the home side was swiftly put to an end when 10 minutes into the half a looping ball on the edge of the Newington box was met by the head of Ferris, who showed great desire to rise above the opposing defenders.

His flick-on was latched on to by strike partner Maciulaitis, who showed great strength to hold off Gowdy before calmly slotting home into the far corner. 2-0 to Loughgall and Newington with it all to do against a side who had only conceded six all season, in 15 games going into Saturday’s fixture.

Newington eventually had the ball in the back of the net after an exquisite ball in behind from Downey found the run of Darren Stuart who cut it back to Morgan for a tap-in.

Unfortunately for the North Belfast faithful, Stuart was flagged offside as the forward had just mistimed his run. Newington, like many others in the Championship this season, were finding it extremely difficult to break down the Loughgall defence.

There was time for one last chance for Newington and Morgan before the final whistle. However, and rather typical of how their afternoon was going, there was also time for one last excellent save from goalkeeper Berat Türker.

A gorgeous pass from Jack Reilly left Morgan eyeball to eyeball with the big Loughgall shot-stopper, who got down quickly to his right to deny Morgan and Newington any chance of a consolation goal, or indeed robbing Loughgall of their 11th clean sheet in 16 matches.

The final whistle confirmed the defeat for Newington, who are now on a run of four defeats in their last five.

Newington’s season will not be defined by defeats at the hands of teams who had realistic goals of promotion before the season started. However, with Dundella away this Friday, things aren’t set to get any easier for the north Belfast side.

NEWINGTON: M Maybin, A Casey, K Bradley, R Gowdy (M Gorman), D Stuart, P Downey (S Dufy), J Reid, M Morgan, F Rice, J Reilly, McVarnock (McNicholl).

LOUGHGALL: B Türker, J Rea (M Patton), B Murdock, T Kelly, P Andrade, N Ferris, A Hoey (J Holmes), N Maciulaitis (B Magee), R Norton, L Cartwright, A Walsh (M Carson).

Goal scorers: R Norton 15’, N Maciulaitis 54’.