A second half brace, completed with a composed team flourish, saw Ben Ryan blast Newpark A back to winning ways in the Premier Division.
Three draws from their last four games has blunted the title charge from Mark Ryan’s side of late, but this city derby win over Evergreen B has left them hot on the heels of table-toppers Thomastown United A.
In a game which ebbed and flowed from end to end, it was a spell of sheer magic which proved to be the winner eight minutes from time at a chilly Buckley Park on Sunday morning.
Showing great skill and no lack of confidence, Newpark enjoyed a three-minute spell where they pressed for an opening, but refused to cough up possession for a half-chance.
Working the ball from the left flank to the right and back again, they kept play moving sharply as they probed for an opening. Several players were involved in a multi-passing move, with Michael Comerford, Darren Hayes, Tommy Donovan, Ben Ryan and Henry O’Neill among the architects.
Impressive as the mounting number of passes were, they were second best when it came to the finishing flourish. Finding space on the left, Tom Doyle delivered a teasing cross to fellow sub Karl Gleeson.
A cushioned header down was inch-perfect for Ryan, who stole in to confidently sweep the ball home.
It was a sweet finish for Newpark, who had their work cut out to contain the threat of a fast-moving Evergreen in the early stages. The visitors used the wide pitch to its full potential, working the ball down the flanks as they forced Newpark on the back-foot.
Gradually, the hosts began to work their way into an attacking mood. Ben Ryan served a warning when he latched on to a half-cleared Shane O’Neill cross, but his 10th minute shot from distance failed to trouble netminder Philip Johnston.
Ryan, who dovetailed well with Comerford, was a real thorn in Evergreen’s side all game. His 14th minute cross was excellently controlled by Shane O’Neill, who beat his man with a clever nutmeg and burst into the box, but Johnston did well to beat the low diagonal shot to safety.
Evergreen might have dropped off the pace for a while, but stepped up the gears and almost took a 17th minute lead. Cian Morton sparked panic in the Newpark ranks when he beat the offside trap and latched on to a long ball. Newpark ’keeper Lukas Banaszkiewicz slid out to claim the ball, but could only deflect it away.
When Adrian Kealy’s follow-up shot fell at Morton’s feet it seemed certain he’d guide the ball into the unguarded net, but Henry O’Neill got back to make a vital goal-line clearance.
Play swung back the other way after that, Ryan going close with a curling shot that had Johnston scrambling for his right post, but while that went wide Newpark quickly conjured up a magical opener.
Evergreen thought they had survived when Ben Ryan’s teasing 24th minute cross was headed clear, but Michael Comerford burst their bubble.
Standing outside the box, Comerford controlled the ball on his chest, then unleashed a powerful volley that looped over Johnston and crashed into the net.
Spurred on by that goal Newpark stepped up their efforts to add a second, but had the woodwork to thank for still having a lead as the interval loomed. Newpark failed to fully clear Ivor O’Brien’s 43rd minute cross and almost paid a heavy price when Graham Gohery teed up John Brett from the rebound. Brett let fly with a thundering shot, one which soared over Banaszkiewicz, but the hosts were relieved to see the ball clatter off the top of the bar.
Evergreen kept up their search for an equaliser, and got their reward nine minutes into the second half. Adrian Kealy showed real bravery, putting his head where others wouldn’t have put a foot, getting down well at the near post to head home Gohery’s dangerous cross from the right.
Much like for Newpark’s goal, the strike propelled Evergreen on to look for a second. Sub Ronan Holohan was a big threat, bringing two saves from Banaszkiewicz. The latter was his best chance, as he sprang the offside trap and cut on from the left, but he shot first time, when he had time to take a touch as the static Newpark defence failed to react.
The scare shook the hosts into action - and, before long, back into the lead. Karl Gleeson beat Evergreen’s offside trap, chasing a long 67th minute ball down the right and racing into the box. His shot was well smothered by Philip Johnston but when the rebound fell to Ben Ryan he made no mistake, lofting the ball over the netminder and into the net.
Ryan saved his best for his second goal, adding the finishing touch to that impressive team move.
The game wasn’t fully safe, as Gary Owens proved when he powered an 86th minute header home to halve the deficit, but Newpark held on for all three points.
Newpark A: Lukas Banaszkiewicz, Henry O’Neill, Ger Wall (Karl Gleeson, 64 mins), Tommy Drennan, Darren Hayes, Dean Woods, Eoin Purcell, Michael Comerford, Niall Kiely (Tom Doyle, 64 mins), Shane O’Neill (Keith Fleming, 76 mins), Ben Ryan.
Evergreen B: Philip Johnston, Mikey McDonald, Ivor O’Brien (Ronan Holohan, 46 mins), Gary Owens, Ger Galvin, Sammy Johnson, Graham Gohery, John Brett, Adrian Kealy, Cian Morton (Cormac Hogan, 31 mins), Seamie Cummins (Robbie Hennessy, 79 mins).
Referee: Ollie Falsey.
Callan beat champs
Thomastown United A were the big winners in the last weekend of Premier Division action in 2014 - and all without kicking a ball.
While the cold snap put paid to two top flight games (Lions A v Bridge United A and Spa United v Freebooters A were called off due to frozen pitches) the real shock came on the Kells Road, as Callan United A beat reigning champions Evergreen A.
Although freezing overnight conditions delayed the start of the game Callan were quick off the blocks, taking just seven minutes to go in front through Simon Burke. A second goal from Owen McGrath, four minutes into the second half, strengthened their position. Evergreen’s miserable day was complete when Sean Barcoe saw his second half penalty hit a post.
The result means Evergreen have now lost three from four league games played this season. Barring a miracle, their hopes of a sixth successive top-flight title are all but over.
Freshford Town’s charge for a return to the Premier Division shows no sign of slowing down. David Lynch’s penalty was enough to earn a 1-1 draw against Clover United A, keeping an unbeaten Town a point clear of the chasing pack.
Brian Donnelly and David Prendergast were on target as Thomastown United B moved into second place in the Division One table with a 2-0 win over Fort Rangers. They are just a point behind leaders Freshford, but they’ve played one game more.
Elsewhere Brendan Burke was on target for Tullaroan in their 1-0 win over winless Newpark B. The win leaves Tullaroan, who finished the game with ten men, level on points with Thomastown United behind leaders Freshford Town.
Goals were the order of the day in Division Two, with a staggering 19 recorded in just two matches!
Leaders Freebooters B kept up their unbeaten run in fine style, rattling off seven away to the Lions B in Durrow. There were hat-tricks for Paddy Kiely and Ricky Dunne, plus one for Ger Hayes, as the Blues prevailed 7-4.
Not to be outdone, fellow promotion chasers River Rangers showed they too knew the way to goal. There were braces for Darragh Murphy and John Cody in their 7-1 win over Ormonde Villa, with Paddy Kennedy, Tommy Manogue and J.J. Corrigan also on target for Rangers, who are a point clear of third-placed Deen Celtic. Danny Lenehan was on the scoresheet for Villa.
It was a day of firsts, but for very different reason at United Park. Castlewarren Celtic missed the chance to regain first place in Division Three as Thomastown United C earned their first win of the season.
Pauric Caulfield (2) and John Dempsey were on target as leaders Castlewarren Celtic went under by the odd goal in five. They now trail Highview Athletic by two points but have also played three games more than the Graig men.
Murty Cuddihy helped himself to a hat-trick as Callan United saw off Brookville 4-0 in a battle of the B teams. Mike Cooper was also on the mark from the penalty spot as Callan moved into fourth place, a point behind St Anne’s - they lost 2-1 away to Clover United B.
Finally, Jason Delaney was the man of the moment, grabbing the only goal of the game as St John’s beat mid-table rivals Ballacolla to end 2014 on a winning note.