BETMCLEAN CUP FINAL TICKETS

Newry City 0-3 Linfield

David Healy’s in-form Linfield side continued their rich vein of form this afternoon, defeating Newry City at The Showgrounds to extend their winning run to 9 consecutive victories in all competitions, and preserving their 8 point lead at the top of the Sports Direct Premiership.

The match was a slow burner, not helped by a heavy pitch which was a consequence of the consistent heavy rain across Northern Ireland in the past week – though it was a credit to the hard-working volunteers of the host club that the match was able to go ahead.

An early Euan East effort went close and it took 43 minutes for the game’s first attempt on target, a Chris McKee header from a Kirk Millar cross which drew an acrobatic save from home goalkeeper Steven Maguire.

An injury to Newry City defender Andrew Martin resulted in 5 additional minutes at the end of the first half and only some blanket defence prevented the combination of McKee and Matthew Fitzpatrick from opening the scoring.

The final action of the half saw Millar have a shot that was comfortably saved, the winger being unable to get sufficient whip on his effort to add to recent similar goals against Dungannon Swifts and Newry City.

HT: Newry City 0-0 Linfield

After a slightly longer than usual half time break due to a linesman pulling up injured and being replaced by 4th Official Christopher Morrison, the second half was a more eventful affair and Newry City were unlucky not to get their noses in front three minutes after the break. Gary Boyle’s men went close from a corner which was delivered by Thomas Lockhart to the near post where Darren King got across his man to get a head on it, only to see his header hit the outside of the post.

The deadlock was broken on 52 minutes when Linfield took the lead. Joel Cooper didn’t hang about following a drop ball and as he immediately whipped in a wonderful cross from the right, Fitzpatrick saw his initial effort strike the post before making no mistake with the rebound as he followed in to convert the opener – his second goal of the season and a goal which his selfless performances have deserved. 

The Blues doubled their lead just four minutes later as Fitzpatrick turned provider with some excellent play. The forward chased what looked like a lost cause and with a show of upper body strength he was able to dispossess Newry defender Darren King inside the box. From there, Fitzpatrick showed composure and awareness to pick out Joel Cooper in a central area, and he clinically finished into the far corner.

Fast forward another six minutes and Linfield made it three goals in ten minutes to put the game beyond Newry. Millar was afforded time and space to cross from the right, aiming for Fitzpatrick at the near post. Goalkeeper Maguire got to the ball but was perhaps distracted by the presence of Fitzpatrick as he failed to take the ball in and had to watch as it squirmed behind him into the net. Millar might claim it, but with his cross not looking to be goal bound it will likely have to be considered an own goal.

To Newry’s credit, they kept going at 3-0 down and carved out a few opportunities. Adam Salley fired over at the near post area following a corner, though the angle was against him. Soon after, a good move down the left saw the ball pulled back to Thomas Lockhart on the penalty spot, however his shot was well saved by Chris Johns down low to his right.

Salley also looked momentarily in the clear at one point, but the pace and desire of Euan East saw him catch up to put in a terrific goal-saving block. There was a moment of concern over East as he stayed down for a few minutes after the challenge, but thankfully, the influential deadline day signing was able to run it off and see the game out. 

The Blues almost added a fourth goal on 86 minutes when Rhys Annett’s goal bound shot was blocked and deflected out to McKee on the edge of the box, where he curled a good effort at goal, only to see his low shot strike the post. 

Linfield goalkeeper Chris Johns had to come up with an excellent save in the second of three additional minutes to preserve The Blues’ sixth clean sheet of the season. Newry City striker Lee Newell showed good movement inside the box and was slipped in by Ciaran O’Connor, only to see his low shot expertly saved by Chris Johns’ outstretched leg.

This victory sets up nicely for a mouthwatering top two clash at Windsor Park next Saturday evening at 17:30 when Linfield host second-place Larne with a lot at stake.

FT: Newry City 0-3 Linfield 

Match facts summary HERE

Match Report by Jamie Megarry