With a defence superbly marshalled by Man of the Match Paul Donegan Newry City finally got their league campaign up and running with a comprehensive five goal thumping of AFC Craigavon at The Showgrounds on Saturday. With only one point secured from the two league games already played this was just the result that the Newry boys needed to kick start their first season in Mid Ulster Intermediate A.
That said it took an early intervention from keeper Peter Murphy to stop Craigavon taking an early lead when Ryan Haddock wriggled free inside the box, Murphy quickly off his line to block Haddocks shot with his legs.
The Newry response was swift, Keith Johnston bursting down the right wing, his run only halted when he was hauled down wide of the penalty area. Quick of feet and thought Johnston took a short free to Jimmy Walker who forced the Craigavon keeper Geogheghan into a fine save from inside the box. The reprieve to the Craigavon goal did not last long as Newry opened the scoring with their next attack. Neil Barr controlled a long pass from defence, spun his marker and although forced wide of the goal as he skipped past the advancing Geoghegan, Barr composed himself on the end line to pick out his partner Sean McMullan who got free from his marker to side foot Barr’s cross to the empty net to put Newry 1-0 up.
Having now ended his five game goal drought McMullan had enough chances to grab a hat trick within five minutes. On 24 minutes Chris Fay worked hard to retrieve a ball which had gone across the face of the Craigavon goal and was heading for a throw in on the other side. Fay turned back on goal and picked out McMullan with a chipped cross which the big man did well to get power into but was unfortunate to see his header hit the underside of the crossbar. Two minutes later the striker had another chance, Johnston broke from the half way line showing Coleman a clean pair of heals. Level with the penalty area Johnston whipped in a cross which first evaded Barr at the front post but fell to the backing up McMullan who was unfortunate to find Geogheghan with his snap shot.
Newry doubled their advantage on 36 minutes in a sweeping movement which started with Graeme Edgar at left back and ended with Johnston on the right wing swinging in a cross for which Fay rose highest at the back post to bullet his header into the roof of the Craigavon goal.
Two nil up at half time Newry sealed the points 10 minutes into the second half. Taking a short corner from Fay, Jimmy Walker whipped in a low cross which went through a ruck of players and seemed to be heading out of the box only for Donegan to react quickest getting to the ball just before a Craigavon defender who, now committed to the challenge, took the Newry man down. With the referee having little option but to award a penalty up stepped Fay to blast his spot kick high into the top corner to put Newry 3-0 up.
With Newry completely dominant in possession and with Donegan and Chris McMahon urging against any complacency more goals looked sure to come.
Midfielder Ryan Quinn certainly looked to have got the message from his captain when he harassed a mistake from the Craigavon defence as they attempted to hold possession, the breaking ball falling to Newry playmaker Walker 30 yards from goal. As only Walker can he held up the ball before chipping a delightful pass which landed on the chest of centre forward McMullan who controlled the ball and turned away from two markers in one movement before shooting home from the middle of the penalty area to put Newry four goals clear with 25 minutes left.
Newry almost conceded a goal and also almost scored one of the goals of the season, both within 30 seconds on 80 minutes.
First in a rare break away Craigavon threatened to score only to be thwarted by Murphy who again was quickly of his line to spread his frame and smother the shot. Regaining his feet Murphy rolled the ball to Niall Crilly who in turn released the speedster Johnston. In a flash Johnston was down the wing and swinging over a cross which curled back to the edge of the box where David O’Connor met it on the run, his volley thumping of the crossbar with the beaten Geogheghan motionless. The final goal of the game came late on and appropriately it went to Johnston who had enjoyed an excellent performance. Aaron Brilly, keen to impress having been introduced as a substitute, came deep to pick up the ball and made ground into the Craigavon half before neatly finding Walker. Instantly Walker released Barr who’s first time shot could only be palmed up in the air by Geogheghan, Walker the first to react to the rebound controlling the looping ball and slipping a pass to Johnston who blasted his low shot to the net to seal a 5 goal win.
In all a thoroughly deserved victory for Newry in a game in which at last they turned the hard work and incessant passing into goals. Newry manager Darren Mullen had clearly sounded a warning to his players “We are gathering a big squad now and the players know that they have to be playing at the top of their game to be in the team. In recent games with the possession and the chances we have been creating I knew that it was only a matter of time before we had a big win and thankfully that proved to be the case.”
Newry City’s next game is next Saturday, 4th October at home to Donard Hospital in the 2nd round of the Irish Cup.
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Crilly, Edgar, McMahon, Donegan, Quinn, Walker, Johnston, Barr, McMullan, Fay. Subs: Brilly, Magill, O’Connor, Curran.
Man of the Match: Paul Donegan
Photograph courtesy of Louis McNally.