United entertained Sirocco Works in this league game at the Millbridge on Saturday last. Despite the heavy rain on Friday afternoon and evening grounds man Jimmy Brown had the pitch in immaculate condition although it was unsurprisingly a little soft in places.
The visitors who have been perennial league challengers in recent years have struggled in the early months of this campaign however a recent change of manager has brought on board a number of fresh faces and encouraging results.
The first half was fairly evenly contested but neither team created any decent scoring opportunities despite the end to end nature of the game. The referee was fairly busy though as there were constant breaks in the play for minor fouls which were due more to the slippery conditions as opposed to any maliciousness.
United really got a foot hold in the game in the second half and dominated play although Sirocco were at their most dangerous in this period as they broke from defence with pace and but for several outstanding saves from Brian McMullan they could have found themselves behind.
After an hour United lost the services of Ian McMullan with a hamstring strain and manager Keith Hamilton introduced teenager Greg Allison whose pace caused the visitors considerable problems. The incisive running of Dalton Tate and Scott Brashaw from midfield and defence started to create opening and Aaron McCaffrey was finding space around the penalty area and went close on a few occasions. Paul Dickson who has been unavailable in recent weeks came into the midfield area in place of Ethan Majury and he caused Sirocco problems from corners and free kicks. Indeed he almost made contact with a superbly flighted free kick from Stuart McMullan which sailed narrowly wide of veteran Irish League goal keepers Andy McDonald’s post.
United took the lead in the 75th minute when Tate’s corner wasn’t cleared by the Sirocco defence and McCaffrey claimed his second goal in as many matches with a well drilled shot into the net.
United maintained their grip on the game as Sirocco tried desperately to get into the game. Defensively United’s rear guard of Boal, Hayes, Brashaw and Herron dealt with everything that came their way and with Brian McMullan in assured form behind them it looked like United would secure all three points. The introduction of Gareth McMullan into the forward line for the hard working McCaffrey in the closing minutes added to United’s forward threat particularly as he combined well with Allison to hold the ball up.
As the game entered injury time Sirocco enjoyed a period of possession forcing a number of corners with keeper McDonald adding to their attacking force more by way of a diversion. In one attack which should have been halted for an offside decision an attacker got a couple of shots in but both were comfortably blocked by Adam Herron and when the player, who was holding onto the defender, went to shoot a third time he missed the ball and fell over and referee Moutray awarded a penalty to the astonishment of the home team and supporters. Despite his best efforts Brian McMullan was unable to save the resulting spot kick.
In the remaining minutes of extra time United almost scored the winner from a goal mouth scramble after a corner when Dickson managed to get his toe to a loose ball but a last ditch lunge from a defender managed to get it cleared off the line and United’s last hopes of full points had gone.
This was another good performance from the home team who will feel robbed of a victory by what was a poor decision from an experienced referee who otherwise had a good game. United however need to put that disappointment behind them as they prepare for another home game this Saturday against Rathfern Rangers.