Newry City swept aside the challenge of St Mary’s, the only team to beat them in the league this year, to move into the semi-final of the Alan Wilson Cup, the divisional knock out competition. It was clear from the kick off that the points dropped in both league games against St Mary’s were a sore point for the Newry players and they showed their intent by almost taking the lead inside the first minute, Man of the Match Chris McMahon picking up the ball in midfield and playing a one two with David Anderson before firing in a shot which looked destined for the net only to be deflected for a corner.
Newry continued with this high tempo opening and got due reward after six minutes. Building from the back via Niall Crilly and Jimmy Walker the ball was worked to Neil Barr on the corner of the St Mary’s penalty area. Barr beat his covering defender and drove in a low cross which was blocked on the six yard line, the rebound however falling to Sean Hand on the edge of the box, Hand taking one touch before drilling a low shot into the opposite corner of the Dungannon net to put Newry a goal into the lead.
For a period on the fast 3G surface both teams were losing possession through poorly placed passes with play moving swiftly from end to end. With Paul McElroy and Joel Annett on good form at the centre of the Newry defence the away goal was rarely threatened except for crossed balls which were mopped up with ease by Peter Murphy. Newry failed to create another goal scoring chance until the half hour mark when McMahon won the ball in the middle of the field and drove forward before releasing Hand just outside the St Mary’s box. Hand skipped past the challenge of his opposite number, Barry McCann, but chose to shoot when perhaps a crossed ball to the penalty spot was the better option, his shot sailing harmlessly over the cross bar.
The away side were now getting the better of things and threatened again on 36 minutes. Gary McVicker won the ball in defence and fed David Anderson around the half way line. Anderson put his head down and ran at the home right back Mark McKee, Anderson always winning the race with the ball as he bore down on the penalty area. Although appearing to be impeded Anderson was determined to stay on his feet and got inside the penalty area before shooting across goal, his effort beating the far post and going wide. Newry had one final chance to score before half time, a chance which lasted about 15 seconds as the ball bounced around the home penalty area as it was blocked by home defenders and smacked goalwards again by a succession of Newry players eventually ending with a fine diving save from Martin Savage from a Crilly shot, the half ending with Newry leading 1-0.
The second half started slowly and stayed that way to the hour mark mainly due to poorly executed passing on the fast plastic surface. Walker and McMahon in the Newry midfield were enjoying the battle with St Mary’s Gavin McMahon and the evergreen Shane McGeown but good chances at either end were few and far between. The game was kicked into life by a Newry attack on 62 minutes. Mark Patton, who worked tirelessly all evening, won a long Murphy clearance nodding the ball into the path of Barr who was unable to wrap his foot around the ball, his shot flying into Savages side netting. However, much like the first period, after Newry had missed with their first chance they took the next one. Crilly brought the ball out of defence and laid the ball off to Walker. Walker attacked the home box, bouncing his pass off Barr before taking the return and slamming a right foot bullet past Savage to double Newry’s advantage.
The game was won on 82 minutes courtesy of another Crilly foray forward. Again attacking from deep this time the Newry right back feigned to pass but kept going himself until he got to the edge of the home penalty box from where he drove in a low stinging shot towards the far corner of the St Mary’s net, the ball skidding off the plastic pitch just in front of the diving Savage who was able only to palm the ball down, Patton the first to react to the loose ball to put Newry 3-0 up.
In fairness St Mary’s persevered and Newry gave them a lifeline on 87 minutes when a ball which should have been cleared downfield was inexplicably passed back towards Murphy in the Newry goal only to be intercepted in the crowded Newry penalty area. Although Murphy made a splendid diving save from the resulting first shot there was little he could do to prevent St Mary’s scoring from the rebound for what turned out to be a consolation only as referee Gerry Murray, who himself had a good game letting play flow when possible, blew the final whistle which signalled Newry were into the semi-final where they will meet Dungannon Tigers.
Delighted with the prospect of a cup run to end the season Newry manager Darren Mullen was in good spirits after the game “Tonight was a very good performance in what I knew would be a difficult game. St Marys are a good side but I felt we were the better team throughout and ran out deserved winners. Other teams find our fitness levels and high tempo of play difficult to deal with. Hopefully we can carry this good form into the semi- final which will be another tough fixture.”
Newry’s next match will be the Alan Wilson cup semi-final away to Dungannon Tigers. The match will be in Dungannon on Saturday 10th May, kick off @ 2pm. Supporters bus will depart from the Stonebridge at 1pm sharp, all are welcome!!
Newry City AFC Team: Murphy, Crilly, McVicker, Annett, McElroy, Walker, Hand, McMahon, Patton, Barr, Anderson. Subs: McCaul (Barr), Edgar (McElroy), Campbell, Martin, McLarty.