by Laura Hillen
Newry City bowed out of this seasons Bob Radcliffe Cup with a tame display against Fivemiletown at The Showgrounds on Saturday. For the home fans an instantly forgettable game, low on quality and entertainment from start to finish, in which the home side enjoyed lots of possession but rarely threatened to score and were ultimately beaten by a late breakaway goal. Newry manager Darren Mullen, however, may not forget the game quickly and will be sure to ask some hard questions off his players before Friday night’s game at home to Banbridge Rangers. The home display was encapsulated by the happenings in the first few moments of the game, Fivemiletown kicking off and attacking straight down the centre of the field, the ball getting as far as the home penalty spot before Newry decided to put in a decent challenge with Ian Curran clearing the danger. The rest of the half was slow and repetitive with lots of tidy passing but little by way of any inventiveness which looked like unlocking an away team who were content to sit back and allow Newry to have possession away from the danger zone. Indeed Newry only threatened the Fivemiletown goal once in the first half and that took until the half hour mark. Keith Johnston, who looked lively throughout without getting the service he required came short for a free kick which he in turn laid back to Chris McMahon. McMahon, who was filling in at left back made ground to the edge of the penalty area before firing in a low shot which was well held by Crawford in the away goal with both Neil Barr and Johnston waiting for any rebound.
Newry began the second half as if they meant business creating a good chance almost immediately Kenny Kearns linking up with Chris Fay to give himself a shooting opportunity from the edge of the box, Kearns going for precision with his attempt to guide the ball into the top corner of the away net, Crawford doing well to tip the shot over for a corner.
For all Newry’s huffing and puffing Fivemiletown had a great chance to open the scoring on the hour mark when their centre forward Gillespie broke down the right wing riding several challenges before cutting back inside the Newry box where he was presented with an overload of options with 3 team mates available and only Newry’s McMahon to beat. Fortunately the Newry captain waited until Gillespie committed to a pass before intercepting the ball and clearing the danger.
In need of something different Newry introduced the mercurial Jimmy Walker into the centre of midfield and the playmaker started to create chances. First to benefit from the Walker introduction was Neil Barr who shot over when well placed just outside the box. Next up was Fay and he really should have scored. Again Walker was involved knocking a pass into the feat of Barr, the striker turning his marker and firing in a cross come shot to the back post which Fay got to, the ball however getting trapped in his feet before bundling wide. At the other end Gary Stewart had a great chance to score when he found himself unmarked inside the box. Fortunately for Newry Peter Murphy was quick to spot the danger and was quickly off his line to narrow the angle and was relieved to see Stewarts shot pass his far post. On 80 minutes Newry almost took the lead, Fay and Johnston linking well to find Walker just outside the box. Walker’s trickery made room for a shot low to the far post, Crawford once more coming to his sides rescue with a full length dive which enabled him to get his finger tips to divert the ball around the post for a corner.
As so often happens when a team with lots of possession fails to turn the advantage into goals any mistake at the other end is amplified and so in this game. On 82 minutes Fivemiletown took advantage of some sloppy play inside the home penalty area when an innocuous high ball was not cleared, the loose ball falling to a Fivemiletown attacker who looked sure to score only for Graeme Edgar to perform heroics to clear the ball off the line. Alas Edgar’s efforts were in vain as his clearance cannoned off the post and landed to the feet of Fivemiletowns Cluff who knocked the loose ball into the net.
Naturally the home side pressed forward for the remaining minutes with Fay, Walker and Josh Durnin going close but it was not to be and in a game where Newry deserved nothing they got nothing, manager Mullen now faced with shaking things up for Fridays Mid Ulster Cup tie at home under lights against Banbridge Rangers.
Speaking after the game the manager was well aware of what he needs to do, “This game was typical of how we have started the season. We had the lion’s share of possession but failed to use that to our advantage. The intensity of our play was not good enough and we will need to lift our game for Friday night. Another defensive lapse has cost us dearly and we need to make sure that we defend in the right manner for 90 minutes if we are going to be a success this season. The one benefit of the day was the debut of 17 year old Josh Durnin who played without fear and has a big future ahead of him at this club. We are missing a few players at the moment but it’s up to the other players to step up to the mark but that has to happen soon”
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Crilly, McMahon, Martin, Curran, Quinn, McMullan, Fay, Kearns, Barr, Johnston
Subs: Edgar, Durnin, Walker, Brilly, Lowry