Newry City boss Pat McGibbon (Picture: Mark Pearce/PressEye.com)
Sunday, 13 November 2011
IF YOU are going to get yourself out of something of a rut, and Newry were definitely in one having lost four out of the previous seven games in all competitions, then smashing five goals at home in a thoroughly dominant performance is just about the best way to do it.
Doubles from James Hand and Darragh Hanaphy and one from Timmy Grant did the damage on a day where City showed just why they are still one of the most feared sides in Championship One.
A change in formation and personnel was certainly required after the dismal midweek defeat to Lurgan Celtic in the semi-final of the Bob Radcliffe Cup but when Pat McGibbon named Ruairi Devlin at the heart of a centre-back three it almost certainly wasn't the change that most, if not all, City supporters expected.
However, Devlin was excellent as the spare man between the equally impressive Paul Donegan and Stephen Hutchinson with Paul Carville and in particular Darren King, revelling in the chance to get forward with increasing regularity.
With Hand restored to the starting line-up, he was given a free role and that enabled the former Republic of Ireland U21 international to dominate possession from start to finish.
It was his craft and guile on the ball that gave Newry the platform to control proceedings and his brace to go along with that of the superb Hanaphy was nothing more than he deserved on the day.
The romp began as early as the seventh minute when Hand's deflected half volley from distance wrongfooted Larne keeper David Henry and flew into the net - cue an attempted cartwheel celebration from the goalscorer who admitted post match that it was in homage to Robbie Keane who had himself hit a double for the Republic of Ireland in their Euro 2012 play-off first leg victory in Estonia the night before.
The visitors could have got back on level terms just four minutes later when the ball fell kindly to Paul Maguire just inside the Newry penalty area but his curling effort was brilliantly pushed away by Gareth Buchanan.
Grant then played Hanaphy in but Henry raced out well from his goal to block the shot.
Newry were forced into a change on 37 minutes when Declan Carville had to be stretchered off with what proved to be at the very least a badly bruised shin.
Brian Mallon came on to replace him and was excellent in the centre of the park. City then doubled their lead on the stroke of half time when King's teasing low cross from the right wasn't held properly by Henry and Grant was able to squeeze it in at the back post for 2-0.
The game could and probably should have been put out of Larne's reach less than two minutes after the break when Hanaphy laid the ball off for Mallon to shoot from just inside the area.
It came back off the inside of the left hand post and Hanaphy's rebound was saved by Henry.
Hanaphy then hit the crossbar with a header from Hand's corner on 65 minutes before the third goal eventually arrived two minutes later.
Hanaphy was in the thick of the action again as he burst clear down the left hand side before cutting in and pulling the ball back to the edge of the six-yard box where Hand was in the right place to sidefoot home.
At the other end, Larne substitute Aaron Lemon produced a neat flick and turn before blasting the ball over the crossbar, while Hand and Hanaphy combined once again for the latter to get in on goal only to see Henry save his shot.
However, the same two players linked up for City's fourth goal with Hand's slide rule pass setting Hanaphy scampering through and the former Drogheda United man made no mistake with his low finish.
The hammering was completed right on the final whistle when Darren Freeman retrieved a free-kick on the left hand side of the box and dinked a perfect ball in for Hanaphy to head home from six yards.