Release Date: 30/08/2012
The Northern Ireland Regions Cup team got off to a great start in Macedonia today with a 2-0 win over Hestrafors of Sweden.
Harry McConkey’s men kicked off their campaign in blistering heat and right from the beginning of the game it was the Eastern Region who took the initiative as they pressurised their opponents.
The first real opportunity came in the 13th minute when Coagh United striker Jason Gillespie hit a thunderous shot from outside the box, only to see his effort just go over the crossbar.
Gillespie also had the ball in the net two minutes later, however the referee quickly sounded for a foul, thus ruling out his effort.
At this stage, the Eastern Region was dominating possession and it did seem that the Swedes were finding it more difficult to adapt to the weather conditions.
Hestrafors had their first effort on goal in the 25th minute, however Johnaton Parr stood firm and made a great save from the opposition striker.
Eastern Region opened the scoring in the 28th minute through Larne’s Paul Maguire who did not waste his opportunity with a free shot on goal which nestled in the bottom left hand corner.
Northern Ireland did not stop there as a minute later midfielder Jonathan Montgomery hit the post with his effort on goal.
In the 31st minute, great work down the right hand side from Scott McMillan give Timmy Grant an opportunity in the penalty area. Grant beat his marker only to see his shot go past the keeper and just past the far post.
Paul Maguire continued to impress and showed great confidence in front of goal. In the 38th minute he saw another effort saved by the goalkeeper. Northern Ireland was definitely the hungrier of the two sides.
There were terrific performances all round the pitch. John Boyle and James Cully in defence and also Marcus Dallas and Jonathan Montgomery in midfield.
They were given a scare however five minutes from the end of the first half when Hestrafors spurned a great chance inside the Northern Ireland penalty area.
Just before the half end, Paul Maguire struck another shot just passed the Swedish post.
Half time Hestrafors 0-1 Eastern Region
Early in the second half, Sweden were reduced to ten men with a harsh sending off. However, throughout the second half the Eastern Region failed to capitalise on the extra man advantage.
Paul Maguire missed a clear opportunity in the 55th minute as he headed a corner over the bar.He had another opportunity 8 minutes later when he hit the post from inside the penalty area.
Northern Ireland continued to dominate possession. Scott McMillan gave himself a great opportunity to put the game to bed in the 68th minute. McMillan found himself free with only keeper to beat, however his chip over the keeper steered wide.
Johnaton Parr made another great save in the 70th minute when it looked certain that Sweden were going to equalise. Shortly after, Paul Maguire had a couple of headers on goal, but again no end result. He then converted a rebound off the goal framework, however he was judged to be in an offside position. This was after David Wright had forced a great save from the Swedish keeper who touched the ball onto the woodwork.
Northern Ireland did eventually wrap the game up two minutes into stoppage time. A Swedish corner was cleared to Ryan Moffatt who ran freely towards goal, then with great composure went around the keeper and calmly slotted the ball home.
Final Score: Hestrafors 0-2 Eastern Region
Manager Harry McConkey commented after the game “Naturally I was very pleased with the result. It is always important in these competitions to win your first game. I felt we stuck to our game plan but were unfortunate not to finish off some excellent build up play in the final third. We scored a very good goal through Paul Maguire, but were denied on four occasions by hitting bar and post and some very good goalkeeping. Sweden were unfortunate to have a player sent off early in the second half, however this can be dangerous as players can become complacent. However, the players kept their patience and remained focused.They know they played a very fluent passing game in all three thirds, however we were perhaps guilty of not being clinical with our finishing. The second goal through Ryan Moffatt came from an excellent counter attack in the final minute of the game. However, despite all the possession we had, it was only then that we could breathe easily.”
1. Johnaton Parr Warrenpoint Town FC
3. Jeff Brady Loughgall FC
5. James Cully Ards FC (Captain)
6. John Boyle Warrenpoint Town FC
7. Scott McMillan H&W Welders FC
8. Jonathan Montgomery Knockbreda FC
9. Jason Gillespie Coagh United FC
10. Paul Maguire Larne FC
11. Timothy Grant Newry City FC
15. Ryan Newberry Glentoran II FC
17. Marcus Dallas Coagh United FC
60th minute: Jason Gillespie replaced by number 16 David Wright (Dundela FC)
65th minute: Timothy Grant replaced by number 13 Ryan Moffatt (Ards FC)
80th minute: Paul Maguire replaced by number 14 William Armstrong (H&W Welders FC)
Yellow cards: Paul Maguire
Other result today in group: South East Macedonia 1-0 North Wales
Current group table
P W D L F A GD PTS
1. Eastern Region 1 1 0 0 2 0 2 3
2. South East Macedonia 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 3
3. North Wales 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1 0
4. Hestrafors 1 0 0 1 0 2 -2 0
Northern Ireland’s next game is against North Wales, Saturday 1 September 2012, 4pm, FC Turnovo, Strumica.
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