Newry City moved seven points clear at the top of the table with a resounding win over AFC Craigavon at The Showgrounds on Saturday. In a game which marked Newry manager Darren Mullen’s 100th competitive game in charge five goals from the league’s top goal scorer Sean McMullan and one each from Keith Johnston and Neil Mullen completed a seven goal winning margin which could easily have been doubled were it not for the heroic effort’s of Craigavon goal keeper Martin Geoghan who produced a string of top class saves.
The first of these came after only two minutes when a Newry corner was cleared to the edge of the box from where Jimmy Walker curled a shot which was destined for the top corner of the Craigavon net only for Geoghan to dive full length to tip the ball around the post.
From the resulting short corner Geoghan was at it again this time to thwart a low drive from Kevin McArdle. He was however unable to stop McMullan from opening the scoring with seven minutes gone, the big man composing himself after being tripped inside the box to earn his side a penalty which he calmly slotted past Geoghan to put Newry an early goal to the good. Such was Newrys dominance that in the next ten minutes they could very easily have been out of sight were it not for some wasteful finishing and more excellent goal keeping by Geoghan.
On ten minutes a flowing move down the Newry right wing ended with Mark Lowry finding McMullan inside the box. In turn he laid the ball into the path of Johnston who’s low shot from the left side of the box was blocked for a corner by the advancing Geoghan. The danger had not gone however as the corner was cleared to the edge of the box from where Thomas McCann drilled a shot towards the top corner which needed another one handed diving save from Geoghan. The visitors struggled to get out of their own half but held Newry until the half hour mark when Walker picked the ball up midway inside the Craigavon half, skipped past tackles and from 25 yards out forced Geoghan to push the ball around the post with another diving save. From the corner the pressure had to tell and again it was McMullan, nipping in front of Geoghan to help Ian Curran’s header over the line to put Newry 2-0 up at the break.
Newry started the second half as if they meant business, grabbing number three shortly after the restart. McCann surged forward from his own half before finding Walker. Walker slipped the ball to McMullan who side stepped his marker before picking his spot in the bottom corner of the Craigavon net.
On 55 minutes Newry almost made it four, Johnston spotting that Geoghan was off his line and from some 40 yards out hit a dipping shot which cannoned off the junction of post and cross bar with the keeper beaten. It was to be 4-0 however minutes later when McArdle swung a cross from the right wing straight onto the head of McMullan who planted his header back across Geoghan and into the Craigavon net for his and Newry’s fourth goal.
On the hour mark Geoghan was in action again, this time diving low to his right to stop a Paddy Mooney shot from the edge of the box and he followed this with an even better save from Walker after the Newry playmaker had got on the ball wide on the right, waltzed his way in field before curling a shot to the far post which Geoghan somehow got to to tip round his post.
The home support had to wait until the 83rd minute for goal number five. With Craigavon unable to get out of their own half Neil Mullen stayed forward after a corner and was in the right place on the edge of the six yard box to turn a loose ball into the net to put the home side 5-0 up.
On 85 minutes it was six, from the right wing Mark Lowry pulled a low ball back across goal, Mark Patton helped it on and cleverly McMullan stepped over the ball allowing it to run out to the corner of the box where Johnston met it first time with a curling side foot shot high into the far top corner of the Craigavon net for a picture goal.
And there was still time for McMullan’s fifth, the returning Sean Hand marauding forward from defence before slipping a pass through the centre of the Craigavon defence which Patton diverted into the path of McMullan who with fleet of foot rounded the keeper and finished to the net to top of a comprehensive win for Newry.
Obviously content after the game Newry manager Darren Mullen was also not getting carried away “ It’s not too often we will win a game 7-0 and still find room for plenty of improvement but that was the case in this game. We started well but were poor for the remainder of the first half. Our decision making, distribution and running off the ball wasn’t good enough and we made hard work off the amount of possession we had. The second half was a lot better and we ran out easy winners. The good thing is the players also know we can play a lot better especially with tougher games to come. Sean McMullan deserves a lot of credit for his five goals and is having a terrific season. His confidence is sky high and although he will admit he’s not the quickest anymore his speed of thought is a lesson for any young striker. The games will be coming thick and fast over the coming weeks but we are more than ready for the challenges ahead.’
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Mooney, Curran, Mullen, McMahon, Walker, McCann, McArdle, McMullan, Lowry, Johnston Subs: McCaul, Hand, Patton, McVerry, Edgar
Newry City’s next game is this Friday, 19th February at home to Broomhill in an Intermediate League A fixture. Kick off 7:45pm