Newry City moved into the quarter final of the Mid Ulster Marshall cup with what was in the end a comfortable victory over St Mary’s in Portadown on Saturday. However a slow start and a host of wasted chances in the second half will give Newry manager Darren Mullen something to work on with his squad.
That slow start may have had much to do with a strong wind which Newry had to face in the first half and which almost presented St Mary’s with the opening goal after only a few minutes when a free kick from inside the St Mary’s half floated towards the Newry goal, Peter Murphy doing well to back paddle to tip the ball over his cross bar. And minutes later Murphy was once more in action coming to his sides rescue after a mix up presented Ryan Lawless with an open goal. Fortunately for Newry a moment’s hesitation by Lawless allowed Murphy to get back into place, the Newry keeper still had to be at his best to fling himself across goal to prevent what looked like a certain goal. Newry’s reply gave a little taste of what was to come, Paddy Mooney drifting into the box in front of his marker to get a glancing head to Stephen McCabe’s cross, his effort going the wrong side of the post. St Mary’s went a goal up on 20 minutes when a goal kick was helped on in midfield which took the Newry defence out of the game, Rory Feeney running behind them onto the loose ball and with Murphy advancing he calmly lobbed the ball over the Newry keeper to open the scoring.
Newry replied in the best possible manner with a beautifully crafted goal made by a passing movement starting from Chris McMahon at right back. On the perfect artificial surface at Annagh, which suited Newry’s brand of slick passing, McMahon fed the ball forward to Decky Carville. From there fizzed passes between Carville, McMahon and Kevin McArdle saw the Dundalk man get on the ball wide on the right. With much to do McArdle left his marker for dead, took the ball into the box, feigned to shoot and instead flicked the ball to his right, perfect for Mooney to drill a low shot across the face of the St Mary’s goal hitting the base of the far post on its way into the net. Newry soon went ahead with a goal started and finished by Stephen McCabe. Picking the ball up with his back to goal on the half way line McCabe spun his marker and powered up the wing before whipping a dangerous ball across the goal which a St Mary’s defender did will to clear over his own cross bar. From the resulting corner Jimmy Walker picked out Carville on the edge of the box, his header back into the box spectacularly met with a flying overhead volley from McCabe which gave St Mary’s keeper Danny Devine little chance to save. And the turnaround was complete on 42 minutes when St Mary’s attempted to play the ball out from the back, Marc Davidson taking an extra touch on the ball which was seized upon by Mooney who took the ball off the defenders foot and into the unguarded net in one movement to end the half with the score line 3-1 to Newry.
Now playing with the wind at their back Newry started the second half with the majority of the possession and created the first chance with the half only minutes old, Jimmy Walker who had been on the end of some robust challenges, back heeling the ball to set up McArdle for a shot from outside the box, Devine shovelling the ball wide for a corner. Newry continued to look for the killer fourth goal. With a free kick on the left wing level with the edge of the box and all the big men at the back post McCabe picked out the run of Mooney to the near post, Mooney unable to get his hat trick effort on target.
The home side had their chances as well the best coming on the hour mark when they broke out of defence, from the right wing Feeney whipping a diagonal ball across the Newry box which McMahon cleared at the back post.
Walker was pulling all the strings in the centre of the park and created the next chance for Sean McMullan. On the ball on the half way line Walker skipped by successive challenges before dinking the ball over the defence for McMullan to run onto, the striker stretching to shoot straight at Devine. There was more to come from Newry. From the back Ian Curran switched play across the pitch to McMahon. He nodded the ball down the line to Keith Johnston who crossed to his fellow substitute Mark Patton who with his first touch smacked a shot of the post, a defender turning the rebound for a corner. From the corner the ball was cleared to the edge of the box as far as Johnston who hit a sweet half volley towards the top corner of the St Marys net which was cleared from the goal line by Ryan Creaney. And Newry went close again with time running out Patton once more unfortunate as he controlled a corner on his chest to swivel and shoot denied by a fine save from Devine.
However, it mattered little Newry having done enough in the first half to win the tie which just about satisfied manager Darren Mullen “The first 20 minutes of this game is probably the worst we have played this season and only for Peter Murphy we could have been two down. After we equalised we lifted our game throughout the team and ran out easy winners. Kevin McArdle was superb in midfield and along with Stephen McCabe and Paddy Mooney posed a real threat every time we went forward. We had loads of possession in the second half and should have made better use of it especially in the final third. One of the main positives this season is that we don’t panic when we go behind and know that no matter what happens we will always pose a threat. We are on a good run of form at present but know we need to keep the momentum going.’
Newry City now travel to play Seapatrick next Saturday 2nd April with a 2pm kick off. Travel club bus will leave The Stonebridge at 1pm.
Newry City AFC: Murphy, McMahon, Edgar, Mullen, Curran, Walker, Carville, McArdle, McMullan, Mooney, McCabe. Subs: Johnston, Patton, Smaryginas, McCann, McShane.