By Neil McKnight
at Riada Stadium
Ballymoney United’s Irish Cup thrashing will provide a “valuable lesson” for the side.
A disappointed Paul Gaston was speaking after watching his team suffer a 1-6 mauling at the hands of Newry City on Saturday.
Gaston’s young troops had been trying to make history by becoming the first United team to reach the quarter-finals of the JJB Sports Irish Cup.
But a Marty Havern hat-trick, backed up with a brace from Stephen Hughes and a Timmy Grant strike ensured victory for the high-flying Championship One side.
Gaston, who won the cup while playing for Coleraine in 2003, lamented his side’s exit at the Riada Stadium.
He said: “I’m disappointed but the boys did well to get this far.
“But I don’t think the boys turned up today to be honest.
“I think maybe the occassion got to them. Some of them were OK but some just didn’t turn up.
“But you can’t just give goals away and expect to win matches the way we did.”
A large vocal crowd of around 200 fans turned out to support the teams.
However, it was the Newry crowd who had the most to cheer.
Defensive lapses saw United go 2-0 down inside 25 minutes.
They pulled one back but frailties at the back were again exposed by Newry’s lethal forward line immediately after the interval.
And it was just too much for former Coleraine defensive hero Gaston to stomach.
Hitting out at the slack marking, he said: “The first goal they gave away - a free header inside the six-yard box after five minutes.
“Second goal, first strike, caught out with a ball over the top.
“Third goal, we talked about it at half-time and then in the first 10 minutes (of the second half) we were 4-1 down.
“We can’t defend the way we are doing and win matches like that.
“The manner that we did was unacceptable. If you want to get to the next level, we are only in Division 2, if you want to get to that next level you will get punished.
“We got punished today for it. So it will be a valuable lesson.”
While the 1-6 scoreline would suggest a severe drubbing, Newry were simply lethal in their finishing but never bombarded the home goal.
Gaston said the taking of chances proved the difference between the Championship One and Championship Two sides.
He also refused to blame the absence of five first-team players as an excuse for defeat.
But added: “It’s going to hit our squad, we are a small team. And you can see it, young boys on the bench.”
Reflecting on the game, Gaston said: “The keeper did not have a save to make. He picked the ball out of the net six times.
“I think he had no saves and they scored six goals.
“If you watched this match on Match of the Day, it was not a 6-1 scoreline but that’s the difference - (at) the next level you get punished.”
Gaston added: “I would say in the possession side we probably had a brave bit of possession.
“Fair play to Pat (Newry boss McGibbon) he’s doing a good job down there and they deserved to win the game.
“After the fifth the heads started to go down and you started to see people going in with rash tackles.
“We’d a couple of good chances at 3-1 to make it 3-2 and you never know, but every time they broke forward they looked like scoring and that’s not a good thing.
“The number 9 (Hanaphy) and 10 (Haveron) were good players, different class. Nine was a threat the whole day in the air. The 10 got a hat-trick.
“But they’d a couple of experienced boys at the back. When they head it, it’s cleared 30 yards. They just get it cleared and they probably had most of the second balls.”
While disappointed at his side’s defeat, Gaston can be proud of an exciting cup run and reaching the sixth round for the first time in 28 years.
The highlight of their campaign was a 2-4 victory over Steel & Sons Cup holders Bangor.
Gaston added: “But the boys did brilliantly to get here and (we’ll) just go on for next week away to Ballyclare and try and get as far up the league as possible this year and build for next year.”