Frustration that a bizarre Irish FA rule forced them to concede home advantage and travel almost 100 miles to fulfil a cup fixture that the draw had first placed at the Newry Showground’s, frustration that a series of refereeing decisions on the day went against them, frustration that they face a crucial league game next week without three players who for a variety of reasons were shown red cards in this game, frustration that they had not turned their superiority on the field into goals and frustration that it was defensive errors ultimately which prevents them from joining the Premiership teams in the hat for round five. That said the positive message that can be taken from the game was that for long periods of the game Newry dominated play against a side who are comfortably placed in Championship 2 which surely augers well as they push for promotion to the senior ranks.
The early stages of the game looked promising for Newry as it quickly became evident that the gap in the league ladder would not be replicated on the pitch, Newry creating the first shooting opportunity after five minutes when a Smaryrginas cross was nodded down by Patton for McMahon who volleyed wide from the edge of the box. Having coped with a period of Portstewart possession Newry grabbed back the initiative after 20 minutes and thought they should have had a penalty when Smaryrginas was chopped down inside the box, the referee waving away Newry claims. Newry continued to press, McMahon carrying the ball out of defence before finding McMullan. McMullan turned and played a one two with his twin striker Patton, the return ball sticking under the big man’s feet but falling nicely for Patton who was following his pass in alas pulling his shot from the edge of the box narrowly wide.
Portstewart grabbed the opening goal after 26 minutes. Faced with a free kick ten yards inside their own half Newry allowed ex Coleraine player Johnny Stewart to ghost into the six yard box from where he headed the long free kick past Murphy to put the home side 1-0 up. Clearly lifted by this Portstewart enjoyed a period of domination, twice in a matter of minutes overlapping left back Ryan Campbell unfortunate with whipped crosses which flew harmlessly wide.
Newry battled back and equalized with a wonder goal on 40 minutes. Patton rose highest at the back post nodding the ball back to McCaul. McCaul spotted Smaryrginas in space 40 yards out. Faced with a strong wind there looked to be little threat to the Portstewart net. That however was not allowing for Smaryrginas who took a step forward before unleashing a thunderbolt into the top corner of the home goal to level the score. Newry weren’t finished for the half Smaryrginas again involved taking the ball down the right wing, cutting inside and playing a one two with McMullan before curling a shot with the outside of his right foot towards the far post which brought the best out of Madison as he dived to push the shot wide to send the sides in level.
Now playing with a strong wind at their backs Newry were immediately on the offence from the restart, Brilly testing Madison with a volley from outside the box. Patton was winning everything in the air and he was soon to cause havoc in the Portstewart defence chasing a long ball which ricocheted of defender and goal keeper back to Patton, in turn finding Brilly, his goal bound shot blocked by a covering defender. On 65 minutes Newry knocked on the door again. Once more Patton was the provider sliding a through ball to Johnston who from the left side of the penalty box opened his body to shoot across Madison, unfortunately placing his effort too close to the keeper. McCaul was the next Newry player to threaten the home goal, the central defender unlucky to see his header from a corner fly wide of the post.
Totally against the run of play the home side took the lead with 75 minutes on the clock when the Newry defence failed to clear an innocuous crossed ball and Stewart once more nipped in to stab the ball past Murphy.
This time there was to be no way back for Newry. Despite constant pressure on the home goal the nearest Newry got to equalizing was from a diving header by Patton from a Kearns free kick which was saved by Madison and a clear hand ball inside the box which once more went unpunished by the referee. To add to Newry’s woe the referee took centre stage in the final minutes of the match. Having awarded Newry a free kick n the half way line he allowed a Portstewart player to pick the ball up and run with it. When Brilly tried to get the ball back as the seconds ticked by the home player rolled on the ground, the inevitable hand bags followed and the referee in his wisdom sent both players off. Worse soon followed for Newry. Having piled all bar a defender and the keeper forward for a corner when the ball was cleared in the race for the ball Donegan became tangled with a Portstewart player who cleverly ran across his path, the referee judged the Newry player to be at fault and showed him his 2nd yellow card which meant an early exit. And only the referee will know why he showed Fay a straight red card after the final whistle, speculation that it may have been something involving the linesman who ruled that Fay was in an offside position when he scored what he believed to be a last minute equalizer.
So a game which will have repercussions as Newry get back to league action next week and though Newry manager Darren Mullen was despondent after the game he did draw a lot of positives from the game “I’m absolutely gutted to be honest. It’s a game we should have won and we’ve missed a great chance to get into the 5th round of the Irish Cup. We had done our homework on them, we dominated the game and paid the price for two defensive errors. To go to a Championship side that have been doing well of late and play so well is a sign of progress but we need to start and take our chances that we are creating. If we can do that and work hard to cut out the defensive mistakes then it’s something to build on for the rest of the season. We have a massive league game next week so there is no time to feel sorry for ourselves.”
Newry Team: Murphy, O’Connor, Curran, McCaul, Donegan, McMahon, Kearns, Smaryginas, Patton, McMullan, Brilly. Subs: Johnston, Fay, Crilly, Walker, Barr.
NCAFC Travel Club
The NCAFC travel club bus to Ballymacash Rangers leaves Stonebridge at 12:45 on Saturday 13/12/14. All welcome.