Newry City’s first competitive fixture for four weeks on Saturday ultimately ended in a Marshal Cup exit to Hanover FC on a sodden Portadown pitch. Whilst the Newry management will not be happy to bow out of another cup they will have been glad to blow away the December cobwebs in time for the more important league fixtures to come.
The Newry boys, in the early stages of the game, however were not showing any signs of rustiness and could have been three goals up inside the first ten minutes. First Peter Thompson glanced a headed effort from a Niall Crilly cross narrowly wide. This was immediately followed by another Newry attack, Chris McMahon finding centre forward Mark Patton wide on the left wing forty yards from goal. Patton beat the defender and cut inside before unleashing a right foot dipping shot which looked destined for the far top corner only to smack off the cross bar. And Patton was soon involved again when he controlled a Peter Murphy kick out before setting up Shane Lundy on the edge of the box, Lundy’s first time shot flying over the bar.
On the half hour mark the spectators were given an insight of what was to come in the second half when a mix up in the Newry defence left goal keeper Murphy stranded out of his goal, the Newry net saved by the quick thinking of Paul McElroy who took up position on the goal line right on time to head a looping shot away from under his crossbar. McElroy also had the final chance to score in the first half when he volleyed over after Patton had headed a Lundy corner back across the box. The second half started disastrously for Newry when they gifted a goal to Hanover. In control of the ball in the middle of the field a poorly executed back pass put the Newry defence under pressure and choosing to play their way out of trouble spurning at least two opportunities to hoof the ball out of danger before a further back pass to Murphy was intercepted by a Hanover attacker who slipped his shot past the keeper for the opening goal.
In response the Newry management made two attacking substitutions bringing on Neil Barr and Mark Lowry to play up front with Patton. On the hour mark Crilly and McMahon again combined on the right wing for McMahon to put in a low cross which Barr met on the volley, his shot however not troubling the Hanover keeper. Barr had better luck minutes later for the equalizing goal. A McMahon free kick to the back post was headed across the six yard box by Patton, was helped towards the goal by Lowry and Barr stooped low to head in from close range for a deserved goal to level the score.
At this stage all the Newry attacking play was coming from their right flank. On 70 minutes Crilly picked the ball up in his defensive position before embarking on a fine solo run skipping past four Hanover tackles which took him to the edge of the home box before laying the ball off to Lowry who had his shot was blocked. The Crilly and McMahon partnership was to the fore for Newry’s next chance, McMahon using the overlapping Crilly as a decoy to give him space to float a pin point cross which found Patton between two Hanover defenders, Patton’s header alas missing the target.
Looking much the more likely team to score Newry were stunned with 10 minutes remaining when a Hanover corner found a home attacker completely free inside the 6 yard box and unchallenged he had little trouble planting his header past the helpless Murphy from close range. Newry resumed on the offense, as they had to, in search of another equalizer and in the final minutes they forced a series of corners which eventually bore fruit when a Lundy corner from the right bounced around the box before being forced over the line by Joel Annett to make the final score 2-2.
Two 10 minute periods of extra time could not separate the two sides and the tie was settled on penalty kicks which the home side won easily scoring their first 4 with only Neil Barr registering for Newry. On a soft slippy pitch played in almost constant rain this will be a game that Newry will be keen to forget and to concentrate on important league games to come.
Man of the Match: Chris McMahon
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Crilly, McElroy, Annett, McVicker, Edgar, Walker, McMahon, Lundy, Thompson, Patton. Subs: Barr, Lowry, McClarty, Campbell, Curran.