Newry City secured a semi-final spot in the Bob Radcliffe Cup with a 4-2 win over Mid Ulster opponents Tandragee at The Showgrounds on Saturday. Despite a first half deluge of rain both sides served up an entertaining cup tie and although Newry looked the more likely winners throughout the visitors as always proved to be dogged opponents the tie not safe until Sean McMullan’s late goal.
With a close recent history between the teams Newry would have expected a tough game against Tandragee but apart from a few early feisty tackles, which went unpunished by referee Glen Buchannan, the home side had things much their own way in the opening period, Decky Carville coming close with only minutes on the clock after Mark Hughes switched the direction of play releasing Stephen McCabe down the left wing, his low cross met by Carville at the front post with a first time effort just the wrong side of the post. Newry’s second chance came minutes later, Marty Havern picking the ball up in the middle of the park before driving forward playing two give and goes first with Jimmy Walker, the second with Carville which presented Havern with a shooting opportunity from the edge of the box, unfortunate to pull his shot wide of the far post.
It was all Newry possession at this stage and the opening goal was not long in coming. Once more Havern picked the ball up inside his own half before moving forward, exploiting a gap between two Tandragee midfielders to burst into the opposing half before laying the ball into the box for McCabe to run onto and with the deftest of flicks dink the ball over the advancing Richard McGivern for a super goal.
Despite dominating play it took the home side a further 15 minutes before they created another chance. Once more Hughes was the architect, holding play up outside the box before playing the ball wide to Havern, his cross to the back post nodded wide by Jimmy Walker. Newry doubled their advantage on the half hour mark when Neil Mullen played a superb long cross field pass which was lost in the air by the Tandragee right back, McCabe making the most of the lapse picking out Carville with a low cross which the striker clinically finished past McGivern.
With Tandragee having seen little of the play that appeared to game over but the visitors had other ideas pulling a goal back on 40 minutes when Peter Murphy did well to push a low free kick which skipped off the wet surface wide of the goal only for Chris Mackle to latch onto the rebound and somehow score from an acute angle. The home side had chances to regain the two goal advantage before the break both of which fell to Havern, first a header back across goal which was easily claimed by McGivern and then a blasted shot after being set up by Hughes, once more McGivern came to Tandragees rescue to leave the half time score 2-1 to Newry.
Tandragee had a great chance to level the score soon after play resumed when Johnny Black beat the Newry offside line before closing in on goal only to be denied by a fine reaction block from Murphy. The danger was far from gone as the rebound fell straight to Cecil Corbitt who had the whole goal at his mercy but somehow missed the target screwing his shot wide. Newry were soon to need Murphy again, this time Corbitt beat the offside trap before crossing low across goal finding Mackle arriving into the box, his first time shot requiring a reaction save by the Newry keeper.
Newry were stung into action and came close to goal number three, Carville cutting the visitors defence with a slide rule pass which gave Havern sight of goal, the wee man choosing to go for power only to find McGivern once more in his path to goal. There was nothing McGivern could do with Newrys next chance. Receiving a throw in midway inside the visitors half Walker had time to spot that Hughes had peeled off the Tandragee centre half swinging in a perfect cross which floated over the centre half perfect for Hughes to place his header wide of McGivern to put Newry 3-1 up.
The game was still not won, Tandragee pulling a goal back on 75 minutes after they were awarded a very soft free kick outside the Newry box. The danger appeared to have passed when Aaron Gallagher scuffed his shot into the box but the Newry boys failed to deal with the loose ball which fell to Corbitt who made up for his earlier miss from close range. Although the home goal did not come under any threat for the remainder of the game it took Newry until the late stages to finally kill off their opponents, Carville playing the ball wide for Havern who crossed to inside the six yard box from where McMullan was never going to miss to end the Tandragee challenge to put his team into the semi-final.
Speaking to Manager Darren Mullen after the game he commented “As per several of our other games not taking our chances makes games more difficult than they should be. We had enough chances to win two games and need to start finishing teams off earlier.
They had a great chance to equalise but we were well worth our victory and can now look forward to a semi-final appearance. The conditions were difficult at times but I thought some of our attacking play was excellent. It’s good to get back to winning ways and there’s a great spirit among the lads so hopefully we can continue to build on our good start to the season.”
Next Saturday (October 1st) NCAFC welcome Newington FC to the Showgrounds in the second round of the Irish Cup, KO 1.30pm. Tickets are still available for our ‘Audience with Dermot Gallagher’ which is taking place next Saturday night. Contact Laura on 07857077176 for tickets & info.
Newry City AFC Team: Peter Murphy, Neil Mullen, Jordan King, Mark Patton, Ian Curran, Thomas McCann, James Walker, Mark Hughes, Declan Carville, Marty Havern, Stephen McCabe. Subs: Sean McMullan, Keith Johnston, Josh Durnin, Padraig Smith, Mark McCabe.