Not their best performance of the season but Newry City still had too much fire power for Mid Ulster side St Marys under The Showgrounds lights on Friday night winning 3-1 to set up a Bob Radcliffe Cup quarter final against Tandragee.
Although Newry manager Darren Mullen made several changes to his starting line up the early exchanges looked very positive for the home side who opened up with two great chances neither of which were converted.
First Kevin McArdle broke forward and having exchanged passes with Sean McMullan found himself with a shooting opportunity but instead chose to square the ball to Marty Havern who shot straight at Daniel Devine. This was followed by an even better chance, Paudie Smith finding his former Warrenpoint partner McMullan inside the box, the big man making room for a shot unfortunate to see his effort hit the outside of the post.
For their part St Marys started off slowly, Neil Mullen cutting out a dangerous cross from Dermot Kelly the extent of the threat to the Newry goal. Certainly Newry looked the most likely to score and on the quarter hour mark they almost did, Decky Carville flighting a perfect cross field ball over the St Marys central defence falling for McMullan to chest and volley unfortunately straight at Devine.
The reprieve was temporary however, Carville chasing the ball to the by line and holding possession before finding Tiarnan Rushe on the corner of the penalty area. Rushe still had a lot to do but made it look simple curling a shot with his left foot across goal into the far top corner of the St Marys net for a picture goal.
For the next half hour chances were in short supply until injury time in the first half when Newry doubled their advantage. Before that the home sides best chance fell to Neil Mullen who made his way forward playing the ball wide to Rushe before receiving it back and trying his luck from the edge of the box, his shot saved by Devine. The visitors also settled into the game and played some neat passing football with Conor Byrne and Ryan Creany showing up well on the left wing, indeed Byrne and Creany created St Marys best chance of the half ending with a dangerous ball across the Newry goal which needed a clearance from Jordan King to snuff out the danger.
Newry grabbed that cushion goal in stoppage time when McMullan received the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the box and flicked it over his head to Marty Havern who although surrounded by defenders took a touch to control the ball and another to make room before picking his spot inside the post to put the home side 2-0 up at the break.
St Marys came out of the blocks much better than Newry in the 2nd half and had a great chance to pull a goal back after 50 minutes, a long ball catching out the home defence leaving the visiting centre forward Sean Brady with space on the edge of the box. However, split between passing and shooting indecision got the better of the argument, Brady’s tame effort easily saved by Peter Murphy.
Newry however failed to take the warning and Brady soon made amends for that miss when Creany swept a super ball across the face of the Newry goal perfect for Brady to slide home. And things could have got worse for Newry on the hour mark and once more it was Creany down the left wing with a dangerous ball into the Newry box which a St Marys player elected to head when perhaps he was better placed to take a touch, the ball hitting the post and scrambled clear. Shook into action Newry stepped up a gear and created a series of chances of their own, Stephen McCabe outpacing the St Marys defence before crossing for the recently introduced Mark Hughes who was unable to get enough power in his shot to beat Devine.
The home side came within inches of scoring on 80 minutes, Carville bringing the ball down the left wing before cutting back along the end line and finding McMullan, the striker toppling over as he stretched to have his first effort parried by Devine, McMullan struggling on the ground to forcing the loose ball over the goal line only to be denied by Devine.
Newry sealed the tie on 85 minutes. With the visitors pushing forward for the equalizer the ball was cleared to another Newry replacement Keith Johnston. Full off confidence with from his early season form Johnston raced into the St Marys half and with options either side Johnston drew the lone St Mary’s defender before slipping the ball to Hughes who used all his experience to round the goal keeper and walk the ball into the net to finish the days scoring.
In all a satisfactory performance from Newry and manager Darren Mullen who now set their sights on next Saturdays home league match against Banbridge Town “It was a game we made hard work of and ended up making it a lot more difficult than it should have been. We could have been two up in the first few minutes and that wastefulness in front of goal continued throughout the game. We struggled to get any great rhythm in our play which was partly down to the amount of changes I made from the previous week’s team. That said with the big squad that we have its up to the players to take their chance when they get it. Young Tiarnan Rushe was lively on his full debut and scored a terrific goal which I’m sure won’t be his last for the club. Whilst we know we can play a lot better that’s four wins out of our first five games and we now have a home tie in the quarter final. We have four home games in a row so we will be aiming to continue our good start to the season.’
Newry City Team: Peter Murphy, Kevin McArdle, Jordan King, Neil Mullen, Conor McCaul, Decky Carville, Marty Havern, Paudie Smith, Sean McMullan, Tiarnan Rushe, & Stephen McCabe. Subs: Keith Johnston, Graeme Edgar, Mark Hughes, Mark Patton, & Mark McCabe.
Photograph Courtesy of Brendan Monaghan Photography.