Newry City slipped out of this year’s Irish Cup in a poor game against top Intermediate side Crumlin Star at The Cliff ground in Larne on Saturday. In a match in which neither team ever really got going Newry, despite not playing anywhere near their potential, will be very disappointed not only that they conceded two goals in injury time but also in the circumstances which immediately preceded The Star’s equalizer, Keith Johnson blown for offside having made what appeared to be a perfectly timed clear run on goal from inside his own half. Although that contentious decision was not lost on Newry manager Darren Mullen after the game he was fully aware that his team were well below par “We didn’t play well but could still have won and are very disappointed in the manner of defeat. With the 90 minutes virtually gone they were throwing everything at us. At that stage it is vital to keep possession when you get it and when we won that ball near the end and gambled on a long ball to Keith the referee gave a terrible decision to blow for offside. They get the ball, we don’t get it back and they score to equalize. That unsettled us and we didn’t recover in time and they grabbed the winner with more or less the last kick but we have to move on. That’s our first defeat in seven games, we now have three games at home and we quickly need to get back to winning ways. We have players coming back from injury and suspension which will add some strength to the squad. We will count that as a poor game and move on”
The first half of the game was instantly forgettable with two evenly balanced teams cancelling each other out. That is apart from a moment of brilliance from Newry’s play maker Jimmy Walker. Stepping up to a free kick 35 yards from goal Walker placed his shot into the very top corner of the Crumlin Star net clipping the inside of both post and bar for a stunning goal which gave Newry a solitary goal advantage at half time.
The second half started much more brightly than the first with the visitors the first to threaten, Josh Cargin and Decky Carville linking down Newry’s left wing, the attack snuffed out inside the box by weight of numbers in the home defence.
Barry McKelvey had been Crumlin Stars playmaker and he tested Peter Murphy on the hour mark. Taking a free kick from the right wing which appeared destined for a back post head McKelvey instead swung a pacy shot towards the near top corner which Murphy did excellent to stop, quickly adjusting his position to get back across his goal and then with the tip of his fingers stretching to touch the ball around the post for a corner.
Newry had half a chance with 15 minutes left to go further ahead when Neil Mullen rose highest at the back post to meet a Walker corner, his effort blocked but falling to Carville on the edge of the box, the Newry midfielder unable to keep his shot from a bouncing ball below the Crumlin cross bar.
From here on Crumlin threw caution to the wind with Newry surviving through some stoic defending principally from Paddy Mooney who was unbeaten in the air all day and also through some wayward finishing by Crumlin. On 80 minutes again McKelvey was the creator, swinging a cross to the back post finding an unmarked James Doyle who headed wide with the goal at his mercy. Crumlin kept the pressure on however and Niall Crilly was next to come to his sides rescue charging down another Doyle chance at the back post.
Then came that contentious decision on 90 minutes. With Crumlin having virtually everybody up field Newry won possession and with Johnson only having to stay in his own half to have a clear run on goal a perfectly pitched pass into his path appeared to give the winger a chance to play the game out only for the referee to call play back having judged that Johnson had stepped too early into the Crumlin half. This decision rattled Newry and gave fresh impetus to the home side who snatched two very similar goals in as many minutes with strikes from Ciaran Murphy and Aidan McNeill to win the tie.
Newry must now regroup for next Saturdays fixture, at home to Hillstreet in the second round of the Marshall Cup. KO 2.15pm.
Newry City Team: Murphy, Mooney, McMahon, Mullen, Crilly, Walker, Carville, Grant, McCann, McMullan, Johnston. Subs: Cargin, Martin, Edgar.
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