David Cushley floors Newry to keep Crusaders on the charge
Newry City 0 Crusaders 1
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter admitted that it wasn't a vintage performance from his side after they moved level with Linfield at the top of the table with a 1-0 win over Newry City last night.
But all he cared about was the three points in his 700th game in charge of the Seaview side, with David Cushley's early goal proving the difference between the teams.
"It was all about the result," said Baxter.
"I thought we started the game off very brightly. We had them under a lot of pressure for the first 25 minutes and then they started to grow into the game.
"They were happy to let us have the ball and try to hit us on the counter-attack.
"I just felt tonight that we looked a bit jaded after the Christmas campaign that we've come through, which was immense.
"I saw a few tired legs out there, which is to be expected. Friday night games can be tough when you're travelling having worked all day.
"On the whole, it was all about a performance, it was all about a result. I don't know that we got a great performance, but we certainly got the result we were looking for and the three points is all that really matters."
The Crues took the lead after just six minutes as they dominated the opening exchanges. The ball found its way to Cushley outside the box on the right-hand side and he picked his spot from 20 yards to curl an inch-perfect effort with his trusty left boot out of the reach of a full-length Andy Coleman and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Baxter's men were in total charge of the opening quarter of the game and they almost doubled their advantage a minute before the quarter-hour when Paul Heatley's left-foot volley whistled past the City post from the left side of the area.
Jordan Owens then went close when he got the better of his man on 16 minutes but couldn't direct his header from a Cushley corner on target as it sailed over the crossbar.
The game went into something of a lull after that with City content to try and hit the Crues on the counter-attack with the visitors unable to find a way through at the other end.
However, as the first half entered its final stages, Newry began to gain some confidence and gradually worked their way further forward. However, the closest they came to a chance on goal was five minutes before the break when Darren King's cross from the right was completely missed by Crusaders keeper Gerard Doherty with Stefan Lavery waiting to pounce before the ball was eventually cleared.
In fact, it was Cushley who came closest to making it 2-0 when he cracked in a 25-yard drive that was only held by Coleman at the second attempt a minute into stoppage time.
Despite City beginning the second half the brighter of the two sides, it was the Crues who had the first attempt in anger 10 minutes in with Jordan Forsythe's shot from distance going just over the crossbar.
They went even closer three minutes later when Rodney Brown curled in a free-kick that was knocked down by Jordan Owens and into the path of Cushley, but his left-foot shot from 15 yards was excellently blocked by Noel Healy onto the base of the left-hand post and out for a corner.
Newry went close 11 minutes from time when Thomas McCann tried his luck from 25 yards, but his effort was always moving away from goal and wide of the post as Darren Mullen's men couldn't force an equaliser.
Newry City AFC: Coleman, King, Healy, Noonan, Boyle, McCann, Montgomery (Moody 71), Walker, Lavery (M Hughes 66), S Hughes (Delaney 84), Teggart. Subs not used: Maguire, Mooney, Rushe, Durnin
Crusaders: Doherty, Burns, Brown, Coates, K Owens, Lowry, Forsythe (Snoddy 71), Rory Hale (Caddell 71), Heatley, K Owens, Cushley (Clarke 90+1). Subs not used: O'Neill, McGinley, Patterson, Ronan Hale
Referee: Shane Andrews
Man of the Match: David Cushley
Match Rating: 5/10.