Newry stand proud but fall short against cup holders.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Newry stand proud but fall short against cup holders. thumbnail DECLAN Carville tangles with Linfield Captain Jamie Mulgrew during Saturday's Irish Cup clash at Windsor Park.

NEWRY City manager Darren Mullen looked a broken man at the press briefing, mixed with the disappointment of not pulling off a result against Linfield and feeling immense pride for his side.


And the Newry City lads and supporters did themselves proud in Saturday's Irish Cup defeat at the National Stadium.

True, Linfield had chances to increase their lead, but in the final 15 minutes, City had the Belfast giants on the ropes.

The sense of occasion wasn't lost on the Newry fans, who were boisterous and out-sung the Linfield fans throughout. Three bus loads of Newry supporters made their voices heard and the City players gave them plenty to sing about.

Even the Linfield fans applauded the Newry City players off the pitch and that speaks volumes for the performance, something which pleased manager Darren Mullen.

"That is a proud moment for everybody and while it mightn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things in terms of that we are out of the Cup, its things like that shows the progress we are making," said Mullen.

"Two or three years ago we wouldn't have been capable of coming here and putting on a performance like that but to do that today in the manner that we did and come away disappointed shows just how well we are doing."

Newry grew into the Irish Cup game and nerves understandably played their part as Linfield dominated the early exchanges and put Newry keeper Steven Maguire under a bit of pressure, but defenders John Boyle and Dara Noonan defended well and were content to concede corners.

Linfield's Mark Haughey, with the Newry fans singing 'he's one of our own,' put in a decent performance and looked comfortable throughout the first half down his right wing.

Newry were finding their feet, when Linfield broke the deadlock. City were on the attack when on 17 minutes Kevin McArdle lost possession and in a rapid counter Kirk Millar played Andrew Waterworth through on goal and from the left side of the goal he coolly slotted home.

It stunned Newry into action and they started to play with a bit more invention and creativity with defender Paddy Mooney particularly impressive.

Newry were denied a penalty when Mooney looked to be bundled over in the box after excellent work between Hughes brothers' Stephen and Mark, the latter who crossed towards the City defender.

Tucker McCabe was also through on goal, following excellent build up play from McArdle and Hughes, but his shot lacked strayed wide of the target.

Still though, Newry were playing with confidence and they didn't look a side a division below the Irish Cup holders. Indeed City seemed extremely comfortable and capable, something Mullen hopes will give his players confidence in the future.

"We had a game-plan but unfortunately we were undone by our own mistake for their goal and they punished us," said Mullen.

"But after that we limited them to very little. I thought we passed the ball very well and our work-rate and our defensive play was great but unfortunately we couldn't nick one at the end because their keeper pulled off a great save.

"There is a sense of overriding pride because to come to the home of Linfield, the holders, who had won the treble last year and there were times that we did pass it around them.

"I thought we were excellent so whilst it is disappointing, we have raised the bar in terms of our own performances and playing at Windsor Park should be the carrot." Indeed, Newry survived a few half chances, with Kurtis Byrne and Niall Quinn coming close to doubling Linfield's lead but City also carved out a number of opportunities.

Decky Carville imposed his authority in the second half after a quiet first half and he drilled his effort on the turn over after Mark Hughes' fine delivery.

Noonan then measured a magnificent 60-yard threaded through ball to Greg McCabe but the hotly demanded striker initially failed to control the ball and his shot was saved by Gareth Dane in the Linfield goal.

Keith Johnston replaced the hard working McArdle and the former Warrenpoint Town striker made an immediate impact and forced Deane to pull off a save at his near post.

The Blues looked out of sorts, but they were still dangerous on the counter-attack. Neil Mullen came off the bench in the closing minutes and he won three headers but right at the death, Newry almost bagged the goal their efforts deserved, when Decky Carville's header was cleared off the line after hitting the underside of the crossbar.

But it wasn't to be for Newry. They exited the Cup, with Linfield now facing Barry Gray's Cliftonville in the quarter-final and manager Mullen was gutted.

"The initial feeling after the game is one of disappointment as I thought we had an opportunity," said Mullen.

"We believed all week leading up to it that we had an opportunity and we proved that today we had them rattled, especially in the last 20 minutes.

"I think once they scored it woke us up a little because we then thought that we had nothing to lose here.

"That was the message at the start without being gun-ho or anything. We needed to be composed on the ball. I thought after they scored we looked really comfortable on the ball and at half-time I told the players to keep doing what they have been doing every week and that they didn't need to change anything.

"To keep the ball and keep passing and keep moving and I thought we were excellent second half." And the Newry boss was proud of his players.

"Look at someone like Tucker McCabe, he came from the Carnbane League, sitting in a pivotal position in midfield and spraying the ball about, he didn't look out of ease," said Mullen.

"Then [Decky] Carville and all those lads, all local lads coming to the home of champions from all over the North and not looking out of place at all." And Mullen was right. Maguire pulled off two decent saves after a nervy first few minutes. Noonan was excellent and has proved a shrewd signing, although I'd like to see him push forward more.

Darren King was rock solid, composed and threaded a few lovely passes too, while Boyle cleared much of the danger and Mooney was arguably the best player of the first half. McCann gave away possession but each time he won it back and supplied a pass, which is what you want from any player.

The Hughes brothers caused Linfield problems, while Kevin McArdle helped Newry stay on the front foot. Carville came into the game in the second half and did well but it would have been nice to see him play closer to goal at some point as he has a deadly strike. And McCabe played well but could have nicked a goal.

And the Newry manager couldn't have been more pleased with his travelling support.

"I have to mention our fans. I thought they were unreal, the amount of fans that came here and they were absolutely brilliant today." Darren Mullen and his management team have given Newry fans an occasion to remember and they can start to dream big, something they hardly dared to do five years ago.

LINFIELD: Gareth Deane, Mark Stafford, Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callagher, Andrew Waterworth, Stephen Lowry, Jordan Stewart, Kirk Millar, Kurtis Byrne, Jamie Mulgrew (captain), Niall Quinn.

NEWRY CITY AFC: Steven Maguire, Dara Noonan, Paddy Mooney, Darren King, John Boyle, Thomas McCann, Stephen Hughes, Decky Carville, Mark McCabe, Kevin McArdle, Mark Hughes.

Referee: Lee Tavinder.


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