Newry City cruised into Round three of the Intermediate Cup with a comprehensive victory over Larne Tech Old Boys at a sodden Newry Showgrounds on Saturday. Another hat trick from top goal scorer Sean McMullan, which brings his tally this season to 22 along with a single strike from his partner Keith Johnston completed a four goal winning margin for the Newry boys who could and probably should have at least doubled the margin of victory had they been less wasteful in front of goal.
That however was not worrying Newry manager Darren Mullen after the game ‘The most pleasing thing about this game was that we made five changes to the line up from last week and still won comfortably. That shows the strength of our squad and gives me a good headache before the Premier Cup Final after Christmas. From start to finish we were rarely troubled and played some very good football in poor conditions. Sean McMullan will grab the headlines and is in great form but will be the first to acknowledge the hard work that goes from defence through to the supply he gets. Jimmy Walker and Decky Carville are two very gifted players but both put in a serious amount of work off the ball and that epitomises what we are about this year. It was also good to see Mark Patton and Ben Wilson back on form after their knee operations. Unfortunately we haven’t got a game until the final but we will be working hard in training to prepare as best we can.’
The home side were on the front foot from the off threatening the Larne goal after only a few minutes, Keith Johnston judging the flight of Peter Murphy’s kick out better than the Larne defender Gary Workman which gave him the space to race to the by line and pull a cross back into the six yard box where a Larne boot cleared as McMullan was about to pounce. A sign of things to come as there was to be little respite for the Larne defence. On 20 minutes Ben Wilson pitched a perfect ball into the Larne box, Decky Carville chested it down to McMullan who swivelled to shot low to the far post brining a fine reaction save from the Larne keeper Steven Adair. Five minutes later Adair was once more called upon, Jimmy Walker picking the ball up in the middle of the park and surging forward playing one twos, first off Timmy Grant and then McMullan which took him inside the Larne box from where he once more tested Adair who saved low to his left. With the Newry full backs free to roam forward it was Paddy Mooney’s chance to next get involved in an attack, taking the ball well into the Larne half before releasing Johnston on the wing. Johnston whipped in a cross which was always just ahead of the in rushing McMullan but that didn’t stop the big man fling himself forward to get the slightest of touches but not enough to guide the ball on target.
The goal was coming and McMullan got the reward for his endeavour on the half hour mark. Again Wilson provided the ammunition picking the centre forward out with a long pass which McMullan in the same movement controlled and turned into space which left him with only Adair to beat which he did with ease curling a low left foot shot round the keeper to put Newry a goal up. Newry had the chances to wrap the game up before half time. On 35 minutes Conor McCaul played a slide rule pass through the Larne defence which Carville ran onto before whipping in a cross which Johnston got a glancing head to, the ball going wide of the far post. On 40 minutes McMullan won a tussle for the ball mid way inside the Larne half and picked the run of Walker who blasted a shot from the edge of the penalty area straight at Adair but with such force that the ball spun up and fortunately for the keeper over his crossbar for a corner. And right on half time Adair worked wonders again. From midfield Walker picked out Timmy Grant inside the box and perhaps in a position to shoot Grant spotted Carville alone on the penalty spot. Now with only Adair to beat Carville kept his shot low but too close to Adair who saved well with his feet.
A goal to the good at half time Newry doubled the advantage soon after the break, Carville this time the instigator picking the ball up on Newrys left wing and changing the point of attack with a sweeping ball to Grant on the right wing. Grant skipped past his marker before picking out McMullan inside the box. Tightly marked McMullan still had work to do to get his shot away but made light work of it chesting the ball into space before firing his shot into the opposite corner for his and Newrys second goal.
Even on this sticky pitch Newry were determined to keep to their own brand of pass and move football which has served them so well this season. And on 55 minutes one such passing phase really should have been rewarded with a goal. Starting at the back with Ian Curran, a patient passing movement back and forward between Chris McMahon, Walker, Wilson and Johnston burst into life when Carville again swept the ball wide to Grant, his low cross stepped over by McMullan and into the path of Johnston arriving at the back post who was most unfortunate to see his reaction shot from close range slam off the base of the post with Adair nowhere to be seen.
McMullan grabbed his hat trick in bizarre fashion on the hour mark. Good inter play between Walker and McMahon created the space for Carville to be able to pick out the centre forward with his back to goal on the edge of the box. McMullan’s first touch got the ball out from his feet and his second was a low shot which somehow beat a suitably embarrassed Adair to put Newry 3 goals clear. Chances kept coming Newrys way, Johnston, McMullan, McCaul and Walker all having goal bound efforts cleared. But goal number four had to come and again it was patient football which created it, Newry playing the ball along the midfield to make space before once more spreading the ball wide to Grant his low cross met first time by Johnston who steered a low first time shot across Adair and into the far corner of the Larne net for a goal which was a just reward for his afternoons effort and which completed the days scoring.
Newrys next match will be the Premier Cup final on Monday 28th December at Crystal Park, Banbridge, kick off 11:30. Newry City supporter’s bus will leave The Stonebridge at 10:30.
Newry City: Murphy, Wilson, McCaul, Curran, Mooney, McMahon, Carville, Walker, Grant, McMullan, Johnston. Subs: Edgar, Crilly, McCann, Mullan, Patton.
Photographs Courtesy of Brendan Monaghan Photography.