Newry City AFC’s relegation was confirmed on the final day of the season after defeat at home to Dungannon Swifts.
Paul McElroy’s goal early in the second half proved enough as Ards held on for a draw at Warrenpoint Town but, in truth, the damage was done earlier in the season for City.
In a game that City needed to win to have any chance of avoiding automatic relegation, they started somewhat nervously in freezing conditions coupled with high winds. The home side were playing with that wind in the first half but it was Dungannon who had the opening chance of the match when Michael Carvill won the ball from a City goalkick to lift it over the top down the right for Johnny Lafferty. The big striker’s shot was deflected just wide of a corner.
Just before the half-hour mark, a goalmouth scramble in the Swifts box saw them force the ball clear after both Stefan Lavery and Mark McCabe had seen shots blocked.
Then, at the other end, young winger Ben Gallagher found himself in space on the left after collecting a James Ferrin pass and his low left-footed drive had City keeper Andy Coleman diving full-length to his left, only for the ball to whistle past the right-hand post.
City eventually tested Swifts keeper Evan Moran on 31 minutes when McCabe turned 30 yards out before cracking in a stinging drive that saw the visiting keeper beat it away from danger as the sides went in deadlocked at the break.
However, it took just four minutes after the restart for the visitors to go in front and all but put the nail in City’s coffin, as McElroy drove home left-footed into the bottom-right corner after Newry had failed to clear their lines.
City almost levelled on 58 minutes when Tiernan Rushe’s corner fell to Dale Montgomery 15 yards out, but his shot was saved by Moran, who managed to get a second touch to the ball to clear as Newry players tried to pounce on the rebound.
The hosts then had an even better chance on 63 when sub Conall Delaney played low into McCabe, whose flick teed up Montgomery again but his shot was straight at Moran.
As Newry pushed more men forward in a bid to get back into the game, Moran made an excellent one-handed stop to deny a rasping drive by home captain Mark Hughes on 72 minutes.
However, that was about as much as Newry could muster as their relegation was confirmed.
Newry City AFC: Coleman, Teggart, M.Hughes, King, Boyle, McCann (Mullen, 69), Montgomery, Durnin (Delaney, 55), Rushe, McCabe, Lavery (Cavalcante, 55).
Subs (not used): Maguire, Curran, Pender.
Dungannon Swifts: Moran, Lowe, O’Rourke, Wilson, Ferrin, Hutchinson, Smyth (Conway, 83), Gallagher (Patton, 47), McElroy, Carvill, Lafferty (Campbell, 65).
Subs (not used): Addis, Bell, Clucas, Conway.
Referee: Ian McNabb.