Armagh City 4 Comber Rec 0
A hat-trick by Armagh City striker Steven Murray paved the way for a superb Coca Cola Intermediate Cup victory over top Amateur League outfit Comber Rec at Holm Park on Saturday.
The local side ran out comfortable 4-0 winners in the end and, as a result, have captured a place in the last 16 of the tournament.
The match was watched closely by Glentoran manager Eddie Patterson and his advisor at The Oval, Roy Coyle, as they assessed City before the team’s Irish Cup clash on February 8.
But, on a dreadful day for football, the duo will have learnt little as a much-changed City line-up struggled to finish off the many goal-scoring chances created.
City, in fact, should have opened their account in the fourth minute but Gareth Grimley missed with an easy header from just six yards out.
The home side continued to force the pace and, on 18 minutes, deservedly took the lead when Philip Donnelly tucked home a low 10-yard shot after receiving a cross from his right by Kevin Keegan.
Ten minutes later Donnelly cleverly slipped the ball through to Grimley who blasted the ball goalwards from 15-yards out, only to see it crash off the Comber crossbar to safety.
The visitors were constantly pinned in their own half of the park and it was no surprise when they conceded a second score on 43 minutes.
On this occasion Murray broke into space and fired a low shot into the corner of the net past the outstretched Comber ‘keeper Jack McCrea.
Half-time: Armagh City 2 Comber Rec 0.
After the interval City again went on the offensive but quickly missed three chances, with Donnelly, Gareth Grimley and Murray all guilty of not tucking away gilt-edged opportunities.
But, on 59 minutes, the home team were rewarded for their efforts when Murray popped into the box to stab home from close range after ‘keeper McCrea found Ryan McGerrigan’s powerful cross too hot to handle.
To their credit, Comber never gave up and they almost scored a consolation goal on 69 minutes with a powerful Brendan Agnew header. But City stopper, Sean Morgan, who had little to do throughout, pulled off a magnificent save to deny the big midifelder.
Armagh, however, immediately increased their grip on the game and set-up further chances for Donnelly and Gareth Grimley who both fired over the Comber crossbar when well placed.
A further goal was inevitable and, with a minute left, City were to be rewarded.
A goalbound shot from Murray was saved on the line by outstretched Rec defender Peter Kelly who was immediately red carded by ref Lee Taverner for deliberate hand-ball.
Murray completed his hat-trick when he stroked the ball into the corner of the net well wide of the unfortunate McCrea.
This was another superb cup win for City who could have made life easier for themselves had they tucked away all the chances created.
It was another all-round sound team performance with the defence of Ultan Lennon, Dara Noonan and the youthful Luke Grimley grabbing the plaudits. Donnelly was also very effective in midfield but the man-of-the-match tag went to Murray for his three-goal blast.
This Saturday it’s back to Championship Two action when City entertain Sport and Leisure Swifts to Holm Park, February 1, kick-off 3pm.
Armagh City: Sean Morgan, Kevin Keegan, Ryan McGerrigan (Dale Montgomery on 69), Ultan Lennon, Dara Noonan, Luke Grimley, Gareth Grimley, Eamon Kelly, Steven Murray, Micky Toland (Matthew Hynds on 46), Philip Donnelly. Subs DNP: Liam Cullen, Paul Carvill, John Daly.
Comber Rec: Jack McCrea, Brent Reid, Andrew Scott, Peter Kelly (red card 89), Neil Moore, Brendan Agnew (y/c), Brian Tumilty (Stephen McCleary on 80), Graham McDonagh (Johnny McKnight on 74), Andrew McIntyre, Seamus McDonnell (Anthony Tomelty on 74).
Ref: Lee Taverner (Dungannon).