Steel and Sons Cup Round Four
Crumlin Star 0-1 Newington (after extra-time)
 
NEWINGTON booked their place in the last eight of the Steel and Sons Cup after Conal Burns bagged the extra-time winner against Crumlin Star at The Cricky on Saturday afternoon.

The sides finished scoreless after an entertaining and eventful 90 minutes and Patrick Downey’s through ball put Conal Burns in on goal seven minutes into extra-time and the midfielder finished with aplomb past Dean Smyth.

Paul Hamilton’s men will now take on Belfast Celtic in the quarter-finals in what is a repeat of their semi-final meeting in 2019.

Then managed by Conor Crossan, the ’Ton defeated Belfast Celtic on penalties before losing the Christmas Day decider to Linfield Swifts.

The opening stages of Saturday’s North Belfast derby clash were cagey to say the least and the first decent chance of the game fell to Crumlin Star’s Samuel McBurney, who blasted over after James Doyle’s initial shot was blocked by Robbie McVarnock.

In the next passage of play, Burns then forced Smyth into action and Newington ought to have opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark.

Thomas Logan played a delightful chip into the path of Downey, but the midfielder dragged his shot across the face of goal and narrowly wide of the target.

With five minutes of the first half remaining, Star created their best chance when skipper Barry McKervey took a quick throw which caught the Newington defence off guard and the ball fell kindly to Stephen Smyth, but his shot flew over the crossbar.

Newington had a host of opportunities to break the deadlock in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but failed to hit the target.

Daire Rooney’s should have at least tested Smyth when he blasted over the bar on 47 minutes while Gary Warwick did likewise a few minutes later.

Joe McNeill also headed over the bar following a McKerney free-kick before Smyth made a smart save from Burns on 65 minutes.

Confusion then reigned when referee Richard Stewart issued Star striker Doyle with a yellow card after a coming together with Kevin Bradley. Having picked up a booking just six minutes earlier, Doyle began walking to the touchline.

Yet, in a bizarre twist, Stewart appeared to change his decision and allowed Doyle to remain on the pitch, but stood by his decision to award a free against him.

Both sides had half chances in the closing 10 minutes, but didn’t take them as the game moved into extra-time, although Star lost defender Mark Lyons to injury in the closing moments of normal time. 

When a goal finally arrived, it was no surprise that Burns was involved as he was a consistent threat all afternoon for Newington.

Downey’s well-weighted pass played Burns through on goal and he tucked the ball past Smyth with seven minutes of extra-time played.

Just before the first period ended, Crumlin Star thought they had equalised when Joe McNeill set-up substitute Ciaran Murphy for a goal, but Stewart disallowed the goal claiming a handball against Murphy.

Newington were then indebted to Nathan Kerr in the second period of extra-time for making a fine save to deny Murphy while Smyth was on hand to stop Downey from doubling Newington’s lead.

As it transpired, there was to be only one goal in a game which could and probably should have delivered a host more, but it is Newington who progress to a quarter-final meeting with Belfast Celtic on Saturday, October 23.
 
CRUMLIN STAR: D Smyth, B Short (P Scollay 90+17), S Smyth, M Lyons (P McIlkenny 90), N Hawkins, J McNeill, S McBurney (D Fearon 90+9), K Trainor, J Doyle (C Murphy 76), A McNeill, B McKervey.   
 
NEWINGTON: N Kerr, R McVarnock (A Casey 90+18), O Roper (P Pierce 90+18), M Gorman, K Bradley, R Gowdy, C Burns, G Warwick, D Rooney, P Downey, T Logan (A Gillen 70).
 
REFEREE: R Stewart.