Newry City allowed a two-goal lead to disappear and with it their hopes of Intermediate Cup success at The Showgrounds on Saturday against Belfast side Crumlin Star. While many of the home spectators will point to some dubious decisions from referee Andrew Woodside, which undoubtedly changed the game, Newry manager Darren Mullen will be most concerned by the amount of goals his team have been conceding particularly after they have taken the lead in a game, a trait which has seen them crash out of two cups and lose valuable league points.
A repeat of that scenario looked unlikely on Saturday after a first half of attacking football during which the Newry boys created many chances from which they grabbed two fine goals thanks to quality finishes from Mark Hughes and Keith Johnston. Strangely with attack minded players all over the pitch it took Newry 20 minutes to create their first good chance, Stephen McCabe skipping past challenges down the left wing before finding Johnston inside the box, his shot partially blocked by Star goalkeeper Ciaran McNeill but still appeared destined for the net only for back spin to take over, the ball slowing enough to allow a defender to get back to clear from his goal line.
The next chance also fell to Johnston, created by Marcus McKeown driving forward from half way before setting up Johnston in a similar position to before, this time the striker’s effort beat both McNeill and the post as it fizzed wide. Newry kept probing, Thomas McCann picking the ball up on the half way line before pushing forward, feigning to pass from the edge of the box before cutting back on his right and drilling a shot which looked destined for the net only to be headed away from goal for a corner. Cue the opening goal, Johnston’s corner headed by a Star defender to the edge of the box from where Mark Hughes smashed a perfect left foot volley into the top corner of the Crumlin Star net to put Newry a goal up.
The visitors could have equalized minutes later, David Fearon knocking the ball down to Niall Hawkins who from ten yards out blasted wildly over the bar. Five minutes before the break Newry doubled their advantage, McKeown again bursting forward from half way before playing the ball wide to Hughes, he in turn took the ball to the end line before spotting Johnston’s clever run to find space at the near post, the striker opening his body to side foot the ball into the roof of the Star net to leave Newry 2-0 up at the break.
For one reason or another that was as good as it got for Newry as they allowed the visitors back into the game shortly after the restart, centre forward Fearon cleverly rolling his marker on the edge of the box before giving Peter Murphy no chance with an unstoppable shot. Both teams swapped chances before the decisive moment of the game, referee Woodside ruling that Kevin McArdle had dived in an attempt to win a penalty as he arrived at speed into the Star penalty area. Having previously booked McArdle a second yellow brandished by Woodside meant that Newry were reduced to 10 men for the rest of the game. And they paid the price for that on 65 minutes when Kevin Trainor found Fearon unmarked at the back post, the centre forward clinical with his finish to level the scores.
If Newry felt aggrieved by the referee up to now worse was to come on 80 minutes when the stylish Barry McKevrey hooked a long ball forward for Ciaran Murphy, who appeared to be yard’s offside, to run onto and nonchalantly lob the ball over Murphy to but his side 3-2 ahead. Newry threw caution to the wind in the final minutes and believed they had won a penalty kick with time running out when Hawkins raised his boot as he attempted to clear a bouncing ball only to make simultaneous contact with the head of Marcus McKeown, referee Woodside instead opting to award an indirect free kick to the home side which came to nothing leaving the final score 3-2 in favour of Crumlin Star.
Although obviously frustrated after the game Newry manager Darren Mullen chose his words carefully “I have to watch what I say about officials but what I will say is that although it’s a difficult job they have to be fit for purpose. We’ve gone from winning 2-1 with a clear penalty to make it 3-1 to having a man sent off for apparently diving and losing 3-2 to a clear offside goal. If we were beat without playing well I would be the first to admit it but to lose in the manner we did is very frustrating. Our first half performance was exactly what we wanted and we were well worth our two goal lead. The players were well warned that the game was far from over at half time and although their first goal was well taken we still should have seen the game out. Although certain decisions didn’t help we still need to defend a lot better and it’s something I need to deal with before we get back to league action next Saturday.”
Newry City’s next came is on Saturday 28th Jan at Dundela, kick off 2pm. Newry City travel club bus will leave The Stonebridge at 12:15.
Before that on Thursday 26th January Newry City AFC will host a Consultation Event at The Showgrounds at 7:30pm where they will present proposed development plans for a new facility at The Showgrounds which will include a community space i.e. community and training rooms, new hybrid stadium pitch and a floodlit 3G pitch. Newry City ask sports clubs, schools, community organisations and charities who may wish to utilise the proposed shared community and sporting facilities to come along to the event where members of the project development team will be available to discuss the proposals and answer questions. If you are unable to attend and would like more information please contact Richard Forsythe on 07835771951 or contact Richard by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographs Courtesy of Brendan Monaghan Photography.
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Hughes, McArdle, Mullen, Curran, McKeown, McCann, Lowry, McCabe, Johnston, Hughes. Subs: Grant, Walker, Patton, Mooney, McCaul.