Newry City opened their Intermediate Cup campaign with a tricky tie at Fivemiletown United, a task they navigated successfully with a battling 2-1 victory.
The game was something of a slow burner, with a largely uneventful opening half hour, before a flurry of activity set the scene for an exciting second half.
Newry looked the more likely during the opening exchanges, but neither goalkeeper was unduly troubled until the 35th minute when Thomas McCann got on the end of a Sean McMullan knock down to fire in a shot which home keeper Adam McDonald saved with his legs. Newry followed that up with a dangerous cross from Mark Hughes that was met by Mark McCabe at the back post, McDonald pulling off a more conventional and impressive save as he dived to push the ball round the post.
The action was really heating up as the half drew to a close and Peter Murphy produced a decent diving save to deny Davy Fulton. The half ended with McDonald stretching well to fetch Keith Johnston’s deft chip with both sides doubtless feeling there was something in the game for them after the break.
The promise was fulfilled early in the second moiety and it was Newry who made the breakthrough. Not for the first time in their careers, it was McMullan and Johnston who combined to find the net. McMullan gathered a throw in from his strike partner and after holding off his defender he flicked the ball to the advancing Johnston who fired home from the right hand side of the box. Johnston’s shot was well hit, but McDonald again chose to go with his feet, the ball eluding him as it found its way to the back of the net.
The home side responded to the City goal by winning a free kick midway inside the Newry half and a floated delivery in to the City box was missed by everyone before drifting just wide.
The game was now opening up as Fivemiletown had to come out in search of an equaliser. Newry were defending resolutely, while looking increasingly dangerous on the break, in particular through the strong running from deep of full backs McArdle and Hughes. The aforementioned McArdle and McMullan both went close with efforts on goal as Newry sought to give themselves the breathing space of a second goal. However, with chances spurned, the home side were still well in the game. Their diagonal crossed balls in to the box had been a threat all afternoon and as the game entered the final twenty minutes the pattern was set. Could the home front men benefit from the dangerous delivery from their wide midfielders, or would Newry pick them off for a second?
Newry came so close to a second on 73 minutes when a wonderful break from Mark Hughes saw the full back thread a passage from inside his own half to the edge of the Fivemiletown box, the Newry man unlucky to see his shot cannon off the inside of the post, across the goal line and away to safety. A second Newry goal really did look like coming and the travelling support didn’t have to wait long. On 76 minutes, neat interplay between Carville and Johnston released Mark McCabe inside the box with the young striker firing home with aplomb.
That should have been that, but to their credit the home side refused to lie down. A few minutes later another dangerous ball in to the Newry box saw substitute Ricki Carroll go down under a challenge from Neil Mullen and referee Maguire had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Paul Baron slotted home and the game was back in the melting pot.
There were still 10 minutes on the clock as the home side sought a produce a grandstand finish. Newry however stood firm and truth be told looked the more likely side to add to their tally on the break. More than once Newry wasted overlap opportunities and might well have paid for their profligacy. There were a number of important interceptions inside the Newry box, the last of which came from Mark Patton whose excellent block ensured that Newry emerged as deserved winners.
Speaking to Newry Manager Darren Mullen after the game he commented, “games against Fivemiletown are never easy especially at their pitch and this game proved no different. It was a physical game on a tight pitch and we picked a team to suit that. I thought we played very well and combatted the aerial threat they had as well as playing some good football. At 2-0 we were very comfortable and had numerous chances to add to that tally. Mark and Keith both took their chances really well and were a threat throughout the game. The late penalty was a dubious one and took a bit of shine off the performance as it would have been nice to get a clean sheet. However it’s good to get back to winning ways along with a good performance and we now look forward to our league game at home against Newington next Saturday.”
Newry welcome Portadown FC to the Showgrounds on Tuesday night (25th Oct) in a friendly KO 7.30pm before getting back to league action on Saturday with the visit of Newington FC, KO 3pm.
Man of the Match: Keith Johnston
Newry City. Murphy, McArdle, Hughes, McCaul (Mooney), Mullen, Patton, McCann (Walker), Carville, McMullan (Havern), Johnston, M McCabe. Sub not used: McMahon.