City battle back against Celts

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

NEWRY City AFC recovered superbly. After going 2-0 in arrears to Donegal Celtic at the Showgrounds on Tuesday evening, the City battled fiercely to chisel out a gritty draw. But will it be enough to earn them the Premier Intermediate League title - or promotion?

Newry City AFC ...2
Donegal Celtic ...2


With probably one of the biggest crowds of the season in attendance, the home side had most of the play, most of the chances but with the interval approaching, they found themselves - and their promotion prospects - in deep trouble as they trailed 2-0.

Still with seconds remaining to the break, Mark McCabe scored a cracking goal to give his side a huge boost going into the changing rooms.

Apart from that goal City, despite their overwhelming possession in the opening half, created virtually nothing in the form of scoring opportunities. The second 45 minutes though was totally different with the home side attacking in waves and, but for a super display from Hoops' keeper Sean McIlhone, some inspired defending and in truth some cruel luck, Newry could have netted at least three or four times. They did grab that vital equaliser however, wee winger Keith Johnston firing home another super score. And in the end the visitors were mightily relieved to earn a draw.

City boss Darren Mullen had mixed feeling about the result as he told the Democrat: "We had a lot of possession in the first half but we always seem to have that against Donegal Celtic. Yet we don't turn that possession into goal chances. There's no point in having the ball if you are not going to do anything with it.

“And then we gave them two goals which made it very difficult for ourselves. We can't be trying to defeat teams at this level, and at this stage of the season, and give them a two-goal start.

“Our message at half-time was not to be feeling sorry for ourselves. We had to see what we were made of. Although it was disappointing, that result keeps them four points behind us in terms of a play-off. And if someone had offered me a play-off place at the start of the season I would have bitten his hand off. There's still a lot of football to be played and we're not out of the running by any means.

“Sometimes you need a wee bit of luck but we don't seem to get it against Donegal Celtic. Even at the end of the match when their keeper dropped the ball we had nobody in position to finish it," concluded the Newry boss.

Donegal Celtic displayed their game plan right from the first whistle with Robert McVarnock flattening Mark Patton within sixty seconds.

City played some tidy football but it was the Belfast Hoops who netted first and ironically it was a local lad who grabbed the opener for Donegal. On 22 minutes the skilful and former Camlough Rovers' striker Decky Monaghan rose unmarked in the box and onto a Brendan O'Neill left-wing cross, to thump a powerful header past the helpless City keeper Kieran Gordon and high into the net.

Newry had an opportunity to level three minutes later but following a Mark Hughes left-wing corner kick, Mark McCabe was unlucky to see his near-post header zip inches wide.

That miss was put into prospective on 29 minutes when the opportunist Monaghan doubled his tally. McVarnock played him in with an accurate through ball and the Celtic number nine, who just two minutes earlier had lain prone on the immaculate Showgrounds turf, seemingly badly injured, had recovered miraculously.

Decky rarely misses one-on-ones; he didn't this time either and as Gordon left his line, Monaghan steered the ball past him and into the bottom corner.

It was a huge blow to Newry but to their credit they kept playing their possession football and two minutes into injury time at the end of the first half they were rewarded. Mark McCabe conjured up a little piece of magic when with seemingly nothing on the young striker curled a stunning 25-yarder into the top corner.

It was a big boost to take into the changing rooms and on the resumption City attacked in waves. On 54 minutes substitute Jimmy Walker crossed from the right with Decky Carville heading just past the post. But four minutes later Newry came even closer to netting. Mark Hughes looked a sound bet to score as he headed net-wards from eight yards. But somehow keeper McIlhone got a hand to the shot to keep it out. Carville was the next player to test McIlhone on 62 minutes but again the net-minder was in the right place.

However, on 70 minutes the Showgrounds erupted as Carville chested the ball down with Keith Johnston volleying accurately into the bottom corner from 15 yards.

Would Newry get a winner? Well it seemed like it on 78 minutes as following a Johnston corner, Thomas Hughes had a great chance. But the midfielder shot over the bar.

The football Gods weren't smiling on the City. Yet with two minutes of injury time McIlhone made his only mistake of the evening as he misjudged Paddy Mooney's huge 45-yard free-kick. The ball dropped onto the goal-line but the net-minder luckily recovered to scramble it out for a corner.

It was to be the last chance of the evening and unfortunately Newry weren't destined to get that elusive winner.


NEWRY CITY AFC: Kieran Gordon, Kevin McArdle, Jordan King, Paddy Mooney, John Boyle, Mark Patton, Thomas McCann, Keith Johnston, Mark McCabe, Declan Carville and Mark Hughes with subs: Jimmy Walker for Patton (36) and Marty Havern for Carville (86). Sean McMullan, Timmy Grant and Neil Mullen (not used).


DONEGAL CELTIC: Sean McIlhone, Karl Rossborough, Mark Burns, Sean Southam, Stephen Doyle, Niall Derry, Declan Monaghan, Brendan O'Neill, Valentine Feher, Kevin Hughes, and Robert McVarnock with subs: Daniel Wilson, Thomas Conlon and Michael McClory.


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