Newry City AFC claimed their place in the 4th round of the Irish Senior Cup at the expense of Amateur League side Downpatrick FC in a pulsating victory, after penalty kicks, at the Showgrounds on Saturday. On a cold afternoon in Newry those present witnessed a fully committed display from a home team determined to put on a show with Radio Ulster broadcasting updates from the game live across the airwaves.
In a game high on chances but bereft of goals the first chance came the way of Downpatrick when a slide rule pass gave Galbraith a site of goal he forced Peter Murphy into a smart save low to his right. Newry soon hit back, Ian Curran floated a centrally positioned free kick into the box for which Mark Patton had timed his run to beat the offside trap but was beaten to the ball by the keeper Russell who rushed off his line, the ball screwing off the keeper’s fist to go behind for a Newry corner.
The bigger threat to the Downpatrick goal came from Shane Lundy’s corner which found Patton at the back post, his goal bound effort blocked on the line. Patton was winning everything that came his way in the air and was responsible for Newry’s next two chances both for Jimmy Walker. On 24 minutes Patton won a Murphy clearance, the ball falling to the feet of Walker on the left of the Downpatrick box. Walker looked up and curled a dipping shot just over the far top corner of the away goal.
The next chance five minutes later saw Walker pick up another Patton knock down and skip around two defenders before blasting his shot narrowly wide of the Downpatrick post.
It was not all one way traffic but any Downpatrick threat to the home goal was snuffed out by the Newry defence with the pace of McCaul and Annett particularly impressive. When the away team managed to get down the Newry flanks Murphy came to the home sides rescue twice in quick succession diving to claim crossed balls on his six yard line.
The best chance of the half came in the final minute when Chris McMahon and Niall Crilly linked up to find Walker with his choice of three Newry forwards on the edge of the Downpatrick box with only two defenders and the keeper to beat. Walker slipped his pass to Lundy wide on the left but Russell in the away goal was quickly off his line and smothered Lundys shot to leave the half time score 0-0.
Newry resumed the second half in attack mode. Neat passing between Graeme Edgar and McMahon gave Crilly the chance to cross low, the ball half cleared to the edge of the box into the path of Curran who had moved up from his holding role in front of the Newry back four, Currans curling left foot shot bringing a fine save from Russell low to his right post.
On the hour mark Newry were awarded a penalty in a move which started deep in their own half. McCaul won the ball in a fifty fifty challenge and maintained control of the ball to find Patton on the half way line. Patton played the ball wide to Lundy who made ground before cutting into the box and attempting to find Patton with a cross which the referee adjudged to have been blocked by the hand of a Downpatrick defender. Although Jimmy Walker placed his penalty hard and low towards the corner of the net Russell flung himself to his right post to save.
When Newry attacks were not crafted by the creative interplay of Edgar, McMahon and Walker the direct method was to find Patton with a long ball. On 68 minutes he again created havoc in the home defence forcing a corner from nothing. Walkers swinging cross made its way through a packed box to the back post where Lundy’s reactive snapshot was again blocked on the goal line.
The remainder of the half was end to end with no clear chances except for the final play of the 90 minutes when McMahon found Walker with an incisive pass which dissected the Downpatrick defence and left Walker with only the keeper to beat which he did with a lobbed shot. Unfortunately for Newry the ball also beat the post to bounce wide to leave the game scoreless.
Downpatrick started extra time best with two half chances in as many minutes. The first was a driven shot straight from the resumption which dipped just after it went over the Newry cross bar. This was followed by the only moment of hesitation from the Newry defence on the day when a long ball which Annett attempted to nod back to Murphy was intercepted by a Downpatrick attacker who toe poked the ball just wide of the Newry goal.
This spurred the home team into action, the next scoring opportunity created by the best passing movement of the day started and finished by full back David Anderson. Having received a throw out from Murphy, Anderson was involved in a sweeping movement involving Edgar, McMahon, Curran and Crilly as the ball was swept forward via both sides of the pitch eventually finding Anderson overlapping on the Newry left, his driven shot palmed over the bar by Russell. This was to be the final chance in play as the second period of extra time saw little by the way of goal chances as both teams tired.
The excitement however was only starting. When Downpatrick scored with their first three kicks leaving Newry staring at defeat having missed with their first spot kick up stepped keeper Murphy who not only superbly stopped the next four Downpatrick efforts but blasted home a penalty of his own to set the scene for Niall Crilly to step up and drive Newry’s 7th penalty hard and low under the diving Russell to put Newry into the next round of the cup with a 4-3 win, before being mobbed by his team mates.
In a game where each and every Newry player gave maximum effort it would be hard to single out where the game was won. Captain Chris McMahon won countless tackles and ran all day, Peter Murphy was flawless in his handling, saved four penalties and scored one but Man of the Match was shaded by Conor McCaul who’s calm demeanour means that much of what he does every week in his efficient way goes unnoticed but on the day was imperious in everything he did.
Newry now turn their attention back to league duty with a Friday night fixture (15th November) at The Showgrounds v Moneyslane with a 7:30pm kick off. Kids gain free admission to the game. There will also be a fundraising quiz straight after the game in the Social Club. Please feel free to come and join in on the craic!!
Newry City AFC Team: Peter Murphy, Niall Crilly, David Anderson, Conor McCaul, Joel Annett, Jimmy Walker, Graeme Edgar, Chris McMahon, Ian Curran, Mark Patton, Shane Lundy. Subs: Peter Thompson (Patton), Lonnie Larkin (Curran), Joe Campbell, Sean Hand, Gareth Hughes.
Photographs courtesy of: Brendan Monaghan