Relegation fate confirmed

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Armagh City 1 Newry City 3


ARMAGH City's relegation to the NIFL Premier Intermediate League was confirmed on Friday night, after a 3-1 defeat at Holm meant the Eagles lost 7-1 on aggregate to Newry City.
Manager Marty Rice made four changes to the side which lost 4-0 in Newry three days earlier, with Conor Kerr, Ultan Lennon, Eamon Kelly and Matthew Hynds all elevated from the substitute bench to the starting line-up.
Armagh started brightly in the early summer sunshine, looking to push Newry back in the early going, although with causing too many problems for Kieran Gordon in the visiting goal.
The first opportunity of the game arrived midway through the half, as Keith Johnston crossed in a perfect back from the right but Mark Hughes somehow headed over from close range.
Two minutes later the Eagles thought they were ahead as Gordon struggled to deal with a set-piece from the right and Shea Campbell bundled the ball home from close range, before the referee belatedly blew for a free-kick following the challenge on the 'keeper.
The sides were evenly matched until the break, with Sean Mallon introduced before the half-time whistle for Armagh to replace the injured Eamon Kelly in midfield.
Luke Grimley replaced Matthew Hynds to start the second half, as the midfield reshuffle continued.
Newry took the lead just before the hour mark as Johnston again caused problems, beating the offside trap and crossing for Declan Carville to poke the ball home from close range.
The away goal ended any thoughts of a miraculous comeback for Armagh, as Newry fans celebrated their inevitable promotion around the ground.
Johnston continued to be a menace down the Newry right, as he again put in a dangerous cross which Hughes could only put in Connolly's direction.
Armagh rescued some pride midway through the second half, when Mallon crossed perfectly from the left for Campbell to head into the corner and put the Holm Park side level on the night.
The parity lasted only two minutes, as Armagh's high defensive line was again caught out and Carville strode through to slot calmly past Connolly and restore Newry's lead.
The scoring was wrapped up on 73 minutes when Hughes was on hand at the back post to head home another cross from the right by Johnston, and give Newry an unassailable 3-1 lead on the night.
Campbell had Armagh's final chance to draw closer on 80 minutes, but his effort from an acute angle was well stopped by Gordon.
Newry saw out the final minutes, as Armagh's stay in the NIFL Championship fizzled out.
The nature of the play-off defeat will perhaps be the bitterest memory of a challenging season, as City will look to re-build over the summer to prepare for a very competitive Premier Intermediate League.
Armagh City: John Connolly, Conor Kerr, Stephen Hutchinson, Eoin Toal, Ultan Lennon, Eamon Kelly (Sean Mallon), Dale Montgomery, Matthew Hynds (Luke Grimley), Johnny McSorley (Gary Boyle), Jasir Camara, Shea Campbell.
Subs not used: Stefan Graham, Ben Rice.
Referee: Mark Dillon


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