NIFL Premier Intermediate League
Armagh City 2 Newington 1
NEWINGTON suffered just their second league defeat of the season as Armagh City claimed a 2-1 win at Holm Park to move to the top of the Premier Intermediate League.
Gary Warwick had fired Newington into a 1-0 lead on 30 minutes, but second half strikes from Conor Mullen and substitute Ross Lavery ensured the hosts claimed all three points.
At the start of the game, it was first versus second in the league with the ’Ton ahead by a single point.
The result, coupled with Bangor’s 1-0 win at Tobermore United, sees Newington demoted to third in the standings having played one game more than the Seasiders, but with one in hand over Armagh.
The home team made the brighter start to the game with captain Ryan Corrigan having their first chance of note after just two minutes when he fired narrowly wide.
Moments later, Marc McConnell whipped in a delightful ball into the path of Ruairi Duffy who couldn’t get his feet sorted in time to shoot.
Newington defender Matt Gorman picked up a booking for a foul on Conor Mullen on the edge of the box, with Armagh’s claims that he was the last defender waved away by referee Matthew Gillian.
It took a while for the visitors to settle into the game and they maybe benefitted from a break in play while Patrick Pierce received treatment.
Indeed, the opening goal came against the run of play as Richard Gowdy’s delivery took a deflection before making its way to Gary Warwick at the back post.
With only Conner Byrne to beat, Warwick drilled an unstoppable shot past the Armagh City ’keeper to make it 1-0 to Newington.
Having been on the backfoot for large part of the first half, the North Belfast men were on pushing hard for a second.
They looked destined to score when a superb through ball from Daniel White played Warwick in on goal once more. Having taken a touch, Warwick’s curling effort was poised to find the top right-hand corner of the net, only for Byrne to pull off a stunning save.
Trailing 1-0 at the break, the Eagles pushed hard for an equaliser in the early stages of the second, but Newington were also dangerous on the counter.
Shea Geraghty’s excellent cross was met by the head of Corrigan on 53 minutes and the ball nestled in the bottom corner of the net, only for the linesman to flag for offside.
Armagh didn’t have long to wait for a legitimate equaliser when Padraig Judge’s wonderfully weighed pass to Mullen had the striker one-on-one with Marc Maybin and he tucked away the chance with aplomb on 57 minutes.
Newington almost replied instantly with the lively Warwick testing Byrne’s reflexes at the other end while Jonathan Carlin cracked a shot off Maybin’s post moments later.
Paul Hamilton’s side had plenty of chances to retake the lead with Tiarnan McNicholl dragging a shot wide while Warwick failed to get behind his strike midway through the second half following tidy build-up play from Gowdy and Patrick Downey.
Neither side seemed content to settle for a point, but clear-cut chances were few a fair between in the closing stages of the game.
The only meaningful chance in the final quarter fell to Armagh City and they grabbed it with both hands as substitute Ross Lavery smashed the ball home from close range after a neat exchange of passes from Mullen and Corrigan.
With only two points separating the top three teams in the league, the title race will have plenty of twists and turns before the end of the season. For now, it is Armagh City who lead the way.
ARMAGH CITY: C Byrne, S Geraghty (R Lavery 68), P Judge, N Kerr, C Mullen, R Corrigan (S McCann 72), J Clarke (A Wilson 79), J Carlin, M McConnell, B Mullen.
NEWINGTON: M Maybin, M Gorman, K Bradley, R Gowdy (A McGonnell 87), C Burns (C Lundy 82), G Warwick, P Downey, T McNicholl (A Gillen 82), D White, P Pierce, J Reilly.
REFEREE: M Gillian.