Newry City have to settle for a point in huge relegation clash against Ballymena United

Sports Direct Premiership: Newry City 1 Ballymena United 1
Newry City's Darren King battles with Ballymena United's Noah Stewart during their game in December.Newry City's Darren King battles with Ballymena United's Noah Stewart during their game in December.
Newry City's Darren King battles with Ballymena United's Noah Stewart during their game in December.

Bottom-placed Newry City remain six points behind Ballymena United in the Sports Direct Premiership after the two sides couldn’t be split at The Showgrounds on Friday evening.

Whilst the game was billed as a ‘must-win’ for Newry beforehand, manager Barry Gray was far from downbeat about his side’s chances of staying in the division when he spoke to the Newry Reporter post-match.

“It’s a game that we didn’t lose; that’s the best thing I can say,” he reflected.

“The game panned itself out like you would expect between two sides at the bottom of the table. It wasn’t as free-flowing as we would have liked it to be.

“However, the gap hasn’t increased (between Newry and Ballymena in the table), we have still left ourselves a chance (to stay up) with plenty of games still left to play, and we can take positives out of tonight.

“As I said to the players, we need to keep building our confidence levels and just keep believing in what we’re doing week after week.

“Things aren’t going to turn massively overnight. Three or four weeks ago if we went 1-0 down we would have lost the game.”

Both sides had chances in the opening period, with Newry’s best coming through Adam Salley. The team’s top goal scorer played a quick one-two with Lorcan Forde and found himself in behind the defence, but he blazed over.

Ballymena’s right wing back Sean Brown had a fantastic game, and he was unlucky not to open the scoring on the half hour mark, when his drilled effort hit the crossbar on its way over.

Brown was involved in the opening goal however – which came on 73 minutes – when his delightful cross from the right wing cut through the Newry defence and was turned home at close range by Noah Stewart.

Newry badly needed a response and thankfully for them, it didn’t take long. Three minutes later, Salley met Georgie Poynton’s corner and found the back of Sean O’Neill’s net with a bullet header.

However, the home side couldn’t find a winner and their winless streak in the league stretched to 16 games.

For full match report and more reaction see this week’s Newry Reporter – in shops Wednesday February 14!