A sun drenched Millbridge hosted a Border Cup first round tie against Groomsport who were visiting the ground for the second time in a fortnight. Manager Glynn Robinson went into the game without at least half a dozen regulars and he also chose to give full debuts to teenagers Conor Graham and Johnny Shannon leaving another three regulars on the bench. Also making his debut was goalkeeper Niall Tyndall whose handling was excellent throughout.
The early exchanges were fairly even however United started to dominate creating numerous openings through the efforts of Greg Allison on the right and Alex Burtney on the left. In central midfield Gavin Crawford and Jordan Hayes worked tirelessly while the new but very effective defensive line out of Johnny Shannon, Conor Graham, Ben Wilson and Davy Boal looked solid. Having spurned a number of decent scoring opportunities which included several excellent saves by the visiting keeper United took the lead on 25 minutes when Ian McMullan tapped in from close range following a goal mouth scramble.
On the half hour mark United were awarded a penalty when Johnny Stevenson was bundled over. The big striker dusted himself down and took the spot kick however it was well saved by the Groomsport keeper down to his right hand side.
Five minutes later Groomsport broke on the right wing and although their forward looked offside he smashed a shot past Tyndall to make the score 1 – 1 at half time.
Early in the second half manager Glynn Robinson made a few planned substitutions bringing Alan Patterson on in defence and Jack Davis in midfield.
In the 55th minute Ian McMullan ran onto a pass from Stevenson and slotted the ball into the net. Minutes later Jack Forbes was brought into the action and he pounced on a loose ball to head the ball into the net to make it 3 – 1.
On the hour mark it was 4 – 1 as Ian McMullan got his hat trick when he intercepted a back pass to run past the keeper and slot the ball home.
Jack Forbes, Jack Davis and Alex Burtney were making a nuisance of themselves across midfield as they latched onto clearance after clearance feeding numerous passes into the penalty area.
Forbes got his second goal when he and Stevenson combined for the latter to fire the ball into the net form ten yards and the hard working Stevenson got a deserved goal when he ghosted into the penalty area to take the ball past the tackles of several defenders to shoot home.
The score line of 6 – 1 was a deserved result for the home side who worked tirelessly throughout. Groomsport never gave up at any time and played some neat football at times.
There is no match this week due to the Northern Ireland International so the next action is expected to be on Saturday 15th September.
United’s run in the Steel & Sons Cup came to an abrupt halt when they were well defeated by an excellent Ballyclare Comrades side last Saturday. They found themselves two down midway through the half and four down at half time. A spirited second half saw them get a goal back though Ian McMullan but a further two goals were conceded.
This week United play their first home match at Millbridge for well over a month when they entertain NAFL Premier League side Dunmurry Recreation in the Border Cup.
United travelled to NAFL Premier League side Malachians with a slighty weakened side due to holidays and injury. Into the line-up came Gareth Bingham and David Kelly.
The home side got off to a great start when they scored in the first few minutes however United played their way into the game and a brilliant strike by Johnny Gibson levelled the game just before half time.
The home team were a constant threat and Brian McMullan pulled off a number of excellent saves while in attack David Kelly went close with a header. In defence JJ Carlisle, Davy Boal and Scott Brashaw played out of their skins while midfielders Gavin Crawford, David Kelly, Ian Boal, Aaron Cheevers and Stuart McMullan covered every blade of grass.
Forwards Gareth Bingham, Johnny Gibson and Ian McMullan played their part throughout the match.
The two periods of extra time proved to be a bit of a non-event as each team became ever more cautious about making a mistake and soon it was time for the dreaded penalties.
After the first five had been taken by each team it was 3 each with Brian McMullan proving to be a major stumbling block. When a Malachians player missed their first kick in sudden death up stepped Scott Brashaw to cap a great personal performance and score the winner.
This was a spirited performance which will have given caretaker bosses Keith Hamilton and Davy Teggarty great encouragement as they go into two further cup ties next week and week after.
The 1sts host Downpatrick this Tuesday (21st August) at The Millbridge in round 1 of the Border Cup. Kick off is at 6.30pm and as a result their will be no training on tuesday evening. Training returns on Thursday evening at 7pm for all 3 teams.
Iveagh 2-1 Ballynahinch United
The hosts progressed to the 3rd round of the Border Cup after a close game in Belfast. Iveagh led 1-0 at the break and extended their lead soon after. However, Ian McMullan’s overhead kick reduced the arrears leaving the 1C side under pressure until the final whistle.
Ballynahinch United II 3-2 Albion Star
The 2nds overcame Albion Star in their first league match of the new season. Having trailed 1-0 goals from Stevenson and Williams handed the lead to the home side, only for them to see the visitors grab an equaliser. The match was settled by McCracken’s goal which handed Ballynahinch United all three points.
Ballynahinch United III 1-6 Annalong Rangers
The 3rds endured a torrid time in their first match against one of the stronger teams in the division. A makeshift 3rd team, missing a number of players, initially traded attacks with Annalong before falling behind on the half hour mark with a second goal following soon after. The away side gained momentum and scored two further goals in the lead up to half time.
The second half was a more balanced affair and, after conceding a fifth soon into the half, the 3rds got a foothold in the game and pressed the visitors, reducing the deficit with a well taken goal from Stephen King. Despite further pressure from the home side it was Annalong who would score again.