Paul Leeman did a captain’s job for Glentoran at The Newry Showgrounds last night as his 76th minutes header sent the east-Belfast side four points clear at the top of the JJB Sports Premiership.
Newry City will feel hard done by though as they had plenty of chances to score themselves in their fight to avoid a relegation play-off and the free-kick that led to the goal was harsh to say the least
Indeed it was Newry who had the opening chance of the game after just five minutes when Paul Keenan found himself in space on the right. His low drive clipped the outside of the post from just outside the area, although it looked as if Elliot Morris had the shot covered.
The same player then had a couple of bites of the cherry after the ball came over from the right wing. His first effort was blocked from six yards out and the ball spun up in the air, but the big striker could only watch as his header drifted wide.
A minute later Gary Hamilton served warning of the danger that the Glens attack pose when he had the first real clear cut opportunity of the match.
A ball out of defence was flicked on cleverly by Michael Halliday for Hamilton to race onto, but his fierce volley was superbly tipped out for a corner by City keeper Andy Coleman.
Two minutes after the quarter hour, Hamilton cut in from the right and struck a low shot with his left foot from 20 yards that flew just inches wide of Coleman’s post as the Glens threatened to turn up the heat.
City still gave as good as they got in the remainder of the half and it was Keenan who was in the thick of the action on a couple more occasions in front of goal.
After Tony Anderson had won a header inside the Glentoran area from a corner, Keenan attempted a looping header over Morris to the back post, but the goalkeeper managed to claw the ball out and then bravely block the follow-up effort by Emmet Friars.
Keenan then struck a shot across Morris from the edge of the box, which the keeper could only push out in the direction of Chris Morgan, but Johnny Taylor was on hand to clear.
In the battle of the strikers, Hamilton replied for the visitors after picking up a pass from Dean Fitzgerald, but once again he found Coleman equal to his right footed shot.
After the break, Darren Cassidy’s high free-kick was only punched up in the air by Morris, the ball fell to Keenan six yards out, but he was caught in two minds as to whether to head or volley. In the end, he did the latter, but could only scoop the ball over the crossbar from six yards.
Then came the all-important goal for Alan McDonald’s men with just under 15 minutes left on the clock.
Referee Brian Turkington harshly adjudged Chris Morgan to have fouled Jason Hill on the Glens left and from the resultant free-kick, Hamilton’s ball was flicked on by Halliday and captain Leeman was there to apply the finishing touch at the back post.
Newry sub Paul Walsh nearly grabbed a point for his side right at the death, but Morris smothered his close range effort.
Newry City: Coleman, King, Cassidy, Donegan, Friars, Clarke, Garrett, Ferguson, Morgan, Keenan (Walsh 81), Anderson. Subs not used: Haveron, Gowdy, Murphy.
Glentoran: Morris, Nixon, Hill, Leeman, McCabe, Ward, Fordyce (Burrows 68), Halliday, Hamilton (Simpson 90), Fitzgerald, Johnny Taylor. Subs not used: James Taylor, Carson, Black.
Referee: Brian Turkington (Belfast).