Square United’s wait for their first competitive win of the 2020 season goes on after Newtown United held the Ardee side to a draw on Friday evening – but those in attendance did bear witness to a stunning Martin Duffy volley, the high point on an otherwise frustrating night for the home team.
For the second game in succession, Square needed Duffy to rescue a point and he duly obliged. The left back followed up his two-goal salvo against Carrick Rovers on Sunday with a goal worthy of winning any game just after the hour mark as the sun set in the Ardee sky. Darren Clare had given Newtown the lead shortly before half-time, a goal which in truth was totally against the run of play.
Outside of an encounter with Ardee Celtic, this was as close to a derby as Square can look forward to in this shortened. The visitors made the short hop to Ardee having suffered a 1-5 reverse to Kingscourt Harps a week earlier. Early on it looked as if they may be line for another defeat as Square started well.
After some excellent approach play from Jake Gillespie, Tristan Knowles shot wide. Jonny Sheridan’s well struck free kick was comfortable for Newtown stopper Donny Sheridan. Rogers’ Andy and Richard had shots from range, but neither proved too testing for Sheridan.
While Square dominated the earl exchanges, their attacks almost exclusively ended in shots from distance. On a rare occasion they ran behind the Newtown defence, Michael Sweeney did well to track Knowles and deny him a chance to cross.
The visitors, when in possession, were trying to go from back to front quickly. Nothing stuck and with Square controlling the midfield, they continued to create chances. Knowles, the creator in chief, shot wide tamely before he made the game’s clearest opening. Turning a ball down the line for Gillespie, the youngster beat his man and pursued the ball down the line before delivering a low cross that Richard Rogers was inches from turning in.
Newtown were defending stoutly, Sweeney and central defensive partner Eoghan Weldon performing well in the air and on the ground, and after the 30 minute mark they began to move upfield and start causing problems.
Jonny Sheridan needed to be alert to block a shot from Andy Monaghan. Five minutes before the break, they took a shock lead. Clare capped their best move of the night, sending a rising shot into the roof of the net.
The start of the second half mirrored the first, with Square on the front foot but continuing to struggle to create chances of substance. The influential Knowles shot wide and within moments of his introduction, Eolann Aiken failed to take his side’s best opening of the game.
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Duffy’s goal was the game’s standout moment. A mark of his influence, and his team’s dependence on him to produce game-defining moments, he was pushed from left back into a more forward position. It paid off when he was on hand to meet a headed clearance with a stunning volley that – at first view – looked like it was going to clear the bar but swerved wickedly and dipped into the top corner.
It was beyond the despairing reach of Sheridan and Square were level. They almost handed Newtown the lead straight back second later. Monaghan’s shot beat Paric Malone but not the post.
The home side also needed sub Conor McCourt to clear off the line when Malone raced from his line to clear, only to see his kick ricochet off Monaghan and bounce towards goal.
Newtown looked more likely for a spell, then Square ended the game in the ascendency. But neither could muster a winning goal leaving both sides without a maiden win in the early stages of this season and with plenty of work to do. For both, the likes of Rock Celtic and Drogheda Town await – so it doesn’t get any easier.
SQUARE UNITED: Paric Malone, Andrew Egan (Fergal Diamond, 52), Stefan Halpenny, Robert McNeice, Martin Duffy, Jonny Sheridan, Andrew Rogers (Conor McCourt, 60), Richard Rogers (Dean Clarke, 60), Tristan Knowles, Jake Gillespie, Chris Kelly (Eolann Aiken, 52).
Subs Not Used: Marc Levins, Lorcan Malone, Ryan Clinton.
NEWTOWN UNITED: Donny Sheridan, Josh Flanaghan (Darren Smith, 57), Michael Sweeney, Eoghan Weldon, Jamie Durnin, Darren Clare, Alan Curran, Andy Monaghan, Jonny Clare (Sean Weldon, 57), James Farrelly (Paul Smith, 80), Andrew White.
Subs Not Used: Myles Aver, Oisin Lynch Duff.