Ballynahinch United welcomed Portaferry Rovers to The Millbridge for the opening game of the Northern Amateur Football League Division 1B season.
Rain sprinkled over the freshly cut grass as teams prepared for kick-off. But it didn’t put off the spectators as fans from both sides lined the perimeter of the pitch, eagerly anticipating the start of the new season.
Portaferry, dressed in orange and black, got the ball rolling and the season underway. Ballynahinch United started slowly and seemed unable to find their feet, while Portaferry took control of the game in the opening minutes. They attacked the Ballynahinch end but were unable to convert their early chances.
United were soon able to pull themselves together and began to play some good flowing football on the slick pitch with debutant Ryan Blaney pulling the strings and newly appointed Club Captain Gary Murray marshaling the back line for the home team.
The hosts were able to create some chances of their own. Youngster Jonny Shannon found himself wide right and easily beat his opponent before hitting an early cross into the area. The cross looped towards unmarked striker Ian McMullan who headed the ball back across goal but was unable to find the target. It gave the home team hope as they continued to press forward and put their visitors under more and more pressure.
Not long after, Niall Tyndall, another ‘hinch debutant, collected a Portaferry corner and quickly got his team on the counter. His long ball drifted over the head of Ian McMullan who was able to stretch and get a touch on the ball but was unable to bring it under control. The ball landed at the feet of a Portaferry defender who attempted to pass back to his ‘keeper. But the pass was underhit. Spotting his opportunity, Alex Burtney made a dash towards the ball and was able to nip in ahead of the goalkeeper and sent the flying winger tumbling to the ground in the area. Penalty!
Burtney, our top goalscorer last season, dusted himself off and stepped up to hit the penalty. He made no mistake and opened the scoring with a sweetly struck penalty, grabbing his first goal of the season in the process.
1 – 0 United
Portaferry made for the United goal after restarting the game and came close to equalising immediately, but the Blue defence stood firm and were able to maintain their clean sheet.
Ballynahinch still created chances of their own, Gary Murray played a short free kick to Ian McMullan. He laid the ball back to his team mate who hit an audacious drive from 35 yards out that sent the ‘keeper scrambling but just drifted over the bar.
Portaferry continued to threatened and nearly grabbed the equaliser from a corner but their header skimmed the crossbar just before the end of the half. The referee’s whistle soon signalled for half-time.
Both teams returned, with Ballynahinch getting the second half underway. The home team now shooting towards the clubhouse but Portaferry threatened further. The visitors looked dangerous from set-pieces all day and were certain to finally convert one.
An corner was drilled in from the right towards a mass of players and found the head of a rising Rovers attacker. The header bulleted past the United keeper who had been left with no chance.
1 – 1
Both teams continued to battle valiantly with hard work and strong tackling that resulted in a number of yellow cards being flashed by the referee but overall the game stayed clean. Corey Davis came off the bench to make his debut for United, replacing Dylan Fitzpatrick in defence.
Gareth Bingham and Graeme McMullan came on near the end to see the game out. Both sides created chances in the second half to win the game but neither were able to convert and take maximum points from the opening fixture.
Ballynahinch United 1 – 1 Portaferry Rovers
|Competition:||NAFL Division 1B|