United welcomed league leaders, Ballywalter Rec, to The Millbridge. Ballywalter arrived unbeaten, with 7 wins and a draw, this season to take on a home side struggling for results and luck, but putting in hard-working performances.
Against the form books, it was the home side who started off best however, pressing hard intent on retaining possession. Conor Graham and Jonny Shannon combined on the right to set up the Yellow’s opener. The ball broke from a loose throw in, Conor fizzed in an exquisite low cross which Alex Burtney turned into the net after nipping in front of a sluggish defender and lumbering goalkeeper.
United’s defence held strong, with Dylan Fitzpatrick playing particularly well. However, United couldn’t further their lead and soon had to make changes to the heart of their team with Captain Gary Murray substituted after suffering a groin injury. Gavin Crawford suffered the same fate soon after and the United side had to reshuffle their ranks again, having already lost Alan Patterson due to work commitments in the warm-up before kick off. Cameron McKissick came on for his first team debut.
A makeshift back line struggled to contain the league leaders, and Ballywalter were unlucky not to find themselves level when their big centre half volleyed over from inside the 6 yard box when it was easier to score.
That wouldn’t be the Recs last opportunity, although they were fortunate to have been gifted a prime opportunity when a short backpass to the ‘Hinch goalkeeper held up in the long wet grass and a Ballywalter forward was allowed to nick in and stroke the ball into the net, despite Stuart McMullan’s despairing attempt to block.
Ballywalter scored a second to give themselves a two minute double salvo and a 2 – 1 lead as United struggled to adapt to their enforced changes.
It wasn’t long before Ballywalter went 3 – 1 ahead despite the efforts of the United team in a match with plenty of strong, feisty tackles. A soft penalty was given after Alex Burtney had used his pace to steal ahead of the ‘walter forward and take the ball away, only for the referee to award a penalty. The penalty was slotted to Stefan’s left who went the right way, but couldn’t get a hand to it.
Ballynahinch battled back but suffered another groin injury when Ross Murray had to be subbed off having only been subbed on in the first half.
Alex Burtney scored a late consolation goal with a smashing free kick that sailed into the top corner leaving the Ballywalter ‘keeper with no chance, but it wasn’t enough over the 90 minutes to win the game, and Ballywalter left with another league victory.
United will strive to improve this weekend away to fellow strugglers Mossley FC, having already drew 1 – 1 in August at The Millbridge.
BUFC 2 – 4 Ballywalter Rec
|Alex Burtney (x 2)
|NAFL Div 1B
Ballynahinch United Swifts
Kilmore Rec vs Swifts – Called Off