The Millbridge was the setting for the first derby game between these two sides for quite a few years and while the football wasn’t very exciting there was no shortage of action as both teams ended the game with nine players.
United entered the game missing Adam Herron due to suspension and the unavailable Paul Dickson however they were buoyed by the return of Aaron Cheevers who transferred to United from Temple Rangers during the week.
The first half was keenly contested with neither of the two goalkeepers seeing any real action however the referee was very much the centre of things booking United players David Kelly, Ross Hayes and Ethan Majury and surprisingly no Dromara Village players despite an equal amount of fouls and confrontations.
United’s best chance came from Aaron McCaffrey whose spectacular overhead kick sailed over the Dromara crossbar.
The second half continued much the same as the first with both teams cancelling each other out however the referee intervened again on the hour mark when he gave Ross Hayes a second yellow card for a foul in the penalty area – an incident that was hotly disputed as any contact was as much due to the Dromara player jumping into the United players back.
The resulting penalty was taken by the Dromara goalkeeper Kieran Gordon but the weak effort was palmed around the post by Bryan McMullan. As a result of the red card, United’s defence had to be reorganised with Gavin Crawford joining Scott Brashaw in the central area with Majury and Davy Boal on either side.
United should have scored after seventy minutes when Dalton Tate and Stuart McMullan combined to put McCaffrey on the left wing and he cut in to cross the ball but the onrushing Ian McMullan couldn’t keep his shot down.
The game truly exploded in the 75 minute with three players, one United and two Dromara, being sent off following a foul on the edge of the Dromara penalty area. This resulted in United’s Davy Boal being set upon by at least half a dozen visiting players with fists and even what appeared to be a ‘Kung Fu’ kick. The referee could easily have sent a lot more players from the field for what was a most disappointing incident.
The only goal came in the 81st minute when Dromara broke away on the right wing and a low cross was palmed out by keeper Bryan McMullan into the path of Dromara forward Johnny Gray who diverted it into the net. This however was not without its controversy either as the ball came at Gray so quickly it hit his chest and then went into the net off his left arm. The referee was so far behind play he could not have seen it and so United’s fate was sealed and the Dromara players and large contingent of supporters celebrated their victory.
In the closing minutes United fought gamely to get back into the game but Dromara held out to go into the second round.