30 APR 2017
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Dominant City close gap with convincing win

21 April 2017

Banbridge Town 0, Newry City AFC 3

Newry City AFC put the destination of the Premier Intermediate League title in their own hands with a comprehensive display to cruise past Banbridge Town at Crystal Park on Saturday.

Mark McCabe strikes in each half and a late Sean McMullan volley saw Darren Mullen’s side ease to three points with an utterly dominant performance and with current league leaders Limavady United losing against Moyola Park, it means that City are two points off the top with the table toppers still to visit The Showgrounds next Tuesday night (April 25).

Things may have changed by the time you read this, with Newry hosting third-placed Donegal Celtic last night (Tuesday) with the clear message – win the remaining four games and you are champions.

City made just one change from the starting line-up that grafted so hard to take a 1-0 away win at Sport & Leisure during the week, with Thomas McCann coming into midfield at the expense of Jimmy Walker.

Right from the outset, Newry were on the front foot and they could have scored twice before they did eventually take the lead on 18 minutes.

With just four minutes on the clock, a Mark Hughes ball in from the left was laid back by Keith Johnston to Decky Carville, whose volley from the edge of the box was touched out for a corner by Town keeper Andrew Cullen.

Five minutes later, City had an even better opportunity to go in front when Kevin McArdle’s right-sided free was flicked on by Carville and when the ball eventually fell to Mark McCabe 15 yards out, he could only fire his half volley over the bar.

However, it didn’t take the visitors long to break the deadlock with a slick move down the right hand side that ended with a superb finish from the in-form McCabe in the twelfth minute.

Johnston did well on the touchline before playing a short pass inside to McCann and with a superb piece of skill, he jinked away from his marker to whip in a fierce ball that Cullen could only palm into the path of McCabe. The striker took a touch to control before expertly curling his effort back past the keeper and into the top right hand corner.

While Stephen McCabe was forced to go off injured to be replaced by Conor McCaul six minutes after the goal, it did nothing to upset City’s rhythm and they continued to pile on the pressure and create chance after chance.

Hughes tested Cullen with a low 20-yard drive on 22 minutes before the City captain set up McCabe for what should have been his and his side’s second goal of the day 10 minutes before the break.

While McCabe did look suspiciously offside when Hughes played his through ball, there was no flag and the striker will have been have disappointed with what was a weak finish straight at Cullen, who managed to push it away to safety.

Further chances came and went before they interval with both Mark Patton and McCaul narrowly missing the target with headers as City went into the break with just a single-goal lead, despite their utter dominance of the opening 45 minutes.

The second half brought more of the same with Newry on top all over the park and three more gilt-edged chances were spurned before they deservedly doubled their lead on 69 minutes.

The opening opportunity arrived seven minutes into the half when Hughes broke clear from just inside the Banbridge half but, just as he prepared to shoot from 15 yards out, ‘Bridge centre-back Stephen Greene produced a fine last-ditch tackle to clear the ball for a corner.

Then, on 63 minutes, McCabe got free down the left before cutting in onto his right foot. He opted to try curling a Thierry-Henry style finish around the keeper but got it all wrong as the ball drifted wide of the right hand post.

However, the youngster’s pace was causing the Banbridge defence, who were playing far too high a line, serious problems and that effort only served warning of what was to come just a few minutes later.

First though, it was Mark Patton who had the chance to make it 2-0 when he held off Greene in the box to control a looping ball but he found his angles narrowed by the outrushing Cullen who blocked the midfielder’s shot from point-blank range.

That was on 68 minutes and it took only another 60 seconds for City to put the result beyond doubt as McCabe’s speed made a mockery of Banbridge’s attempted offside trap.

The excellent Paddy Mooney, who never gave the Banbridge frontline a kick alongside the faultless John Boyle, won another header with the ball falling to Johnston on the edge of the centre circle inside Newry’s half. The winger’s hooked ball forward set McCabe sprinting clear from his own half with the home defence screaming for offside.

Once McCabe latched onto the ball, he was never going to be caught, but he still had to produce a finish and he did that in fine style, seemingly catching Cullen off-guard with a curling effort from 15 yards that nestled in the top left hand corner with the keeper rooted.

It was a minute later that Banbridge finally had their first shot on target with Stephen McCavitt’s stinging effort from the left forcing Kieran Gordon into a fine diving save to tip the ball out for a corner.

However, normal service was resumed at the other end soon afterwards with Mark Hughes almost sealing goal of the season on 74 minutes. Another swift counter attack down the right saw Carville spot the run of Hughes on the opposite flank and he picked his skipper out with pinpoint accuracy for Hughes to crack a first time volley just over the bar from 16 yards.

The icing was put on the cake for City three minutes into time added on with the third and final goal to give at least some form of recognition of the disparity between the two sides on the day. It arrived when last season’s top goalscorer Sean McMullan cracked in a low right footed volley from the edge of the box past the helpless Cullen for what was the perfect end to the perfect day for the large travelling City support.

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