United entertained Newcastle in this league game at the Millbridge last Saturday in the hope of exacting some revenge for a league defeat in the first few weeks of the season. The visitors have shown outstanding form during this campaign and are considered one of the potential title contenders.
It was Newcastle who showed the early initiative and they were rewarded as early as the fourth minute when Sexton fired in a tremendous free kick which gave Brian McMullan in the home goals no chance. Encouraged by the early lead the ‘Seasiders’ pushed on for more goals and it took a series of interventions by the United defence of JJ Carlisle, Ross Hayes, Davy Boal and Ethan Majury to keep them at bay. Newcastle were not to be denied and they increased their lead when Brannigan scored in the 25th minute.
United’s midfield of Aaron Cheevers, Lee Maxwell, Ian Boal, Scot Brashaw and Stuart McMullan were working overtime to cope with a fluent Newcastle team and Ian McMullan was getting very little service. Overall United were disappointed in the first half although they almost got a goal back after 35 minutes when Newcastle keeper Baker misdirected a clearance into the path of Cheevers who jinked his way into the penalty area only to see his shot sail over the cross bar.
It was inevitable that there would be a different United in the second half and so it was with the introduction of Johnny Gibson to the left wing and Gavin Crawford returning from injury into central midfield. United used the ball intelligently and Gibson gave the experienced Neill Corr a torrid time with his strong runs and accurate crosses. The pressure paid off when the two substitutes combined to get a goal back with Crawford heading home a Gibson corner.
Newcastle were completely overwhelmed at this stage and United should have scored when Maxwell was put through but Baker did well to save his shot and the keeper distinguished himself when he got his finger tips to an Ian McMullan header which looked a certain goal.
United continued to press and should have had a penalty when a defender clearly handled the ball but the referee obviously did not see it. United introduced the rangy Paul King to the action and he had a long range shot which went narrowly wide.
Newcastle to their credit managed to survive the United onslaught and in the closing period of the game they managed to retain sufficient possession to stifle United’s aspirations to get an equaliser which their second half efforts probably deserved.
Newcastle moved into pole position in Division 1B with a four point advantage over their nearest rivals and this week they travel to play Bloomfield in a league fixture. United on the other hand are in ninth position however it’s back to cup action this week with an Irish Cup tie at home to Sirocco Works. The kick-off is 1.30pm.