United travelled to New Grosvenor last Tuesday night for the second of the season’s two midweek games against a strong Sirocco Works team who had like their opponents not found that winning formula after three league games.
The early exchanges were even with Sirocco enjoying the advantage of a strong wind while United’s slick passing enabled them to gain valuable attacking opportunities. United suffered the loss of forward Gareth McMullan with a hamstring injury after twenty minutes. Sirocco created a few chances which Brian McMullan dealt with well while at the other end the Sirocco keeper pulled off an outstanding goal line clearance from a shot by David Kelly. On the half hour mark as United pressed up field they were caught out by a long ball which left the Sirocco centre forward free to run through and slip the ball past Brian McMullan. This was a blow for United however they were not to be behind for long as after a few unproductive attacks Dalton Tate released Stuart McMullan on the right wing and he slipped the ball to David Kelly who centred for Gavin Crawford to head superbly into the net.
In the second half United had the advantage of the wind and they varied their tactics with more use of the longer diagonal ball which caused the Sirocco defence lots of problems. Time and again Stuart McMullan and Aaron McCaffrey beat the offside to create openings.
In the 50th minute following excellent work on the right wing by Craig Bowman found David Kelly who created an opening for Scott Brashaw to run into the penalty area and unleash a shot that went in off the post to give United the lead.
This was a lead that United were determined to hold onto and this was epitomised throughout the team. In defence Paul Dickson rose to clear a barrage of long balls while his defensive colleagues Davy Boal, Craig Bowman and Craig McMullan repelled attacks all along their back line. Brian McMullan who was rarely troubled still handled superbly when called upon. In midfield Kelly, Tate, Brashaw and Crawford worked their socks off while Stuart McMullan and McCaffrey provided an excellent first line of defence as they harried the Sirocco defenders at every opportunity.
Despite holding the lead things remained tense until the 80th minute when United got their third goal which always looked as if it would come. Once again it was pressure on the right wing that created the opening and when McCaffrey latched onto the ball in the penalty area he cleverly side footed it to David Kelly who thumped it into the roof of the net.
Sirocco pushed hard in the closing minutes to get back into the game but United remained steadfast to hold on to the valuable three points they had worked so hard for. Gareth Bingham replaced the hard working McCaffrey in the forward line and like all his team mates he put in a valuable shift.
This result is a just reward for some decent performances by United in these opening league matches of the season. Over the next three weeks they face Lisburn Rangers, East Belfast and Killyleagh in cup matches.