Newry City eased fears of relegation with a handsome basement battle win over Donegal Celtic at Celtic Park — and rooted Paddy Kelly’s Wee Hoops to the foot of the Premiership.
It was anything but a spooktacular showing on Halloween but it was manager Gerry Flynn who left the relegation Grim Reaper hovering over Kelly’s men, who performed like zombies throughout a one-way contest.
A stunning Matt Hazley free-kick sent City en-route to victory.
His goal in the 11th minute was added to by an Andy Graham brace — the first just before the interval and the second late on as Celtic pressed forward in search of an avenue back into the game.
Evidently livid, Celtic boss Kelly blasted a claim for a penalty which was turned down by referee Hugh Carville when Ryan Henderson appeared to be up-ended in the goalmouth.
He said: “At 1-0 we had a stone-wall penalty and I cannot understand why it wasn’t given. At that stage of the game we could have levelled and it might have been a different outcome.
“But the decision not to give us a penalty changed the game entirely. Newry went a scored a second and that it was that, game over.
“This game will not decide who stays up in the league and who goes down.
“There are a lot of points to play for. We have enough quality and character to stay but we have to do better at home — starting next week against Dungannon Swifts.”
Keystone Cop defending on Celtic’s part gave the visitors reason to believe early on that the priceless three points on offer in west Belfast were there for the taking.
The anticipated battle didn’t pan out — Newry were hungry for it but the Belfast hosts looked like they’d seen a ghost.
Almost all of Newry’s activity in front of Declan Brown’s goal was created by his team-mates in front.
Woeful timing in the tackle led to a series of free-kicks and calamitous moments that had Brown sweating throughout the first-half.
He was beaten in the 11th minute by Hazley’s strike from 30-yards and again just before the interval by Graham’s brave effort that saw the ball go in off the foot of a post in the 43rd minute.
City boss Flynn said: “We did our homework and carried it out.
“We are delighted with the points because it’s really hard down at the bottom of the league.
“We asked the boys for a big effort and they gave that.
“To score three away from home and keep a clean sheet is very pleasing.”