NAFL Clarence Cup 1st Round: Abbey Villa 3 v 1 Ballynahinch United

After a break of over two months Ballynahinch United got their season back on track with a game having suffered cancellation after cancellation due to the recent inclement weather. Believe it or not this game was moved from venue to venue across North Down to get it played and it finally took place on the council pitch at Kircubbin which was in excellent condition.

United were up against Abbey Villa in one of the leading contenders in NAFL Division 1A and not having played for some time was evident as the home team went into a 2-0 lead after fifteen minutes with goals from Adam Arthurs and Michael Doran.

Most of the first half hour proved to be hard going for United with their defensive line up of Alex Miller, Ross Hayes, Scott Brashaw and Stuart McMullan having to work hard and give goal keeper Bryan McMullan some cover. As the first half progressed the midfield of Dalton Tate, Gavin Crawford, Matty Shaw, Aaron Cheevers and Stuart Hunter got a lot more possession to give Ian McMullan some service and support up front. In the 40th minute Ian McMullan scored following a goalmouth scramble and as the first half ended the visitors were well into the game.

At the start of the second half it was Abbey Villa who made the early running however once United got hold of the ball the situation changed with wave after wave of attack descending on the Villa goal and in the 50th minute United got the opportunity to level the game when Ian McMullan was upended in the penalty area. Up stepped the usually reliable Dalton Tate who sadly got under his spot kick to launch it over the bar.

Abbey Villa got a third from a Michael Doran header on the hour mark and this made United’s task all the more harder. United manager Keith Hamilton brought on Dee Stewart, Gregg Allison and Ethan Majury in an effort to get back into the game. Majury, Stuart McMullan and Alex Millar all had long range efforts from free kicks but they could not get the opening that would have made for an exciting finish.

This was United’s first game for almost ten weeks and given the quality of the opposition they were facing this was a good performance and it is a credit to the players for keeping themselves in good condition despite the constant disappointments of the previous weeks postponements.

This week United entertain Colin Valley at the Millbridge and it will require a performance of the same quality to secure important league points.

Some photos of saturdays match can be seen below.

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Club Notes

It is now two months since United had a first team game with scheduled fixtures both home and away being cancelled due to the weather conditions. Last Saturday’s Clarence Cup tie to Abbey Villa fell victim to the weather and it has been rescheduled for this saturday with a 1.30pm kick off. Mind you the weather forecast for the coming week isn’t exactly too good so fingers crossed.

The Swifts have had a couple of games (away defeats to Dromora & Tollymore) since the turn of the year with a home game scheduled for this saturday at The Millbridge against Carryduff.

However for the majority of players over this past few months it has been a case of train and train and train in the rain in the hope of a game.

Match Report: Ballynahinch United 2 v 2 Temple Rangers (Temple won 3-1 on pens)

Clarence Cup Round 1 – view photos.

This much awaited Clarence Cup tie which had been postponed three times since it was originally scheduled for Saturday 22 December took place at Millbridge on Saturday. The large attendance was one of the biggest turn outs at a local match for some considerable time and was evidence if any was needed at the popularity of the local game and particularly in a derby setting.

United went into this game seriously depleted missing no less than six first team regulars – Adam Herron, David Boal and Johnny Hunter [Suspended], Alan Patterson [Injured] and Scot Brashaw and Jay Smyth [Unavailable]. While this certainly stretched United’s squad it gave manager Colin Murray the chance to bring in some of the clubs youthful talent with Greg Allison stepping up from the Swifts and the surprise inclusion of Paul King who is an Albion regular.

From the kick off United were on the attack and after nine minutes they went into the lead when some excellent approach play resulted in Aaron Cheevers crossing onto the edge of the six yard box and Ian Boal slotted the ball into the net past Alistair Coburn.

Despite this advantage United just did not press on and rarely troubled the Temple defence despite winning quite a few corners.

In the second half Temple Rangers came out strongly and generally dominated play however United’s defence was well marshalled by Hayes, Carlisle and Foster with Brian McMullan having little to do.

Temple equalised on the hour mark which really lit the game up because whilst they were getting plenty of possession they were not really doing that much with it. The goal came from a long throw with McDowell sliding the ball into the path of defender who scored from the edge of the penalty area with a scorching drive.

Minutes later they were 2-1 up when a long ball into the United penalty area found its way into the net whether as an own goal or a header from substitute Lee Maxwell whatever the way of it he may not have known much about it.

United had a major problem at this stage and to their credit they rose to the occasion with the introduction of Bingham, Allison and King giving them fresh legs.

The equaliser came in the 87th minute when great work from Stuart McMullan on the left wing ended with a cross into the penalty area which the Temple defence failed to deal with and as the ball fell on the edge of the penalty area Paul King lashed it into the roof of the net for his first senior goal on his debut. In the closing seconds of the game United almost snatched the win when Gareth Bingham latched onto a loose ball and fired towards an unguarded goal from the edge of the area but his effort went narrowly wide.

The game went into two periods of extra time during which Temple lost their veteran keeper Alistair Coburn with a dislocated finger which meant that Paul Dickson had to take his place.

All too soon it was time for the penalty shoot-out which would provide as much excitement as what had gone before. Temple Rangers changed their goal keeper for the penalty shoot-out which proved a master stroke bringing in forward Adam McDowell in place of Paul Dickson.

First to take a penalty was Temple’s Matty Shaw and he blazed it high over the bar but United didn’t take advantage with David Kelly’s effort saved by McDowell. McDowell took the next one himself scoring past McMullan with precision. Scott McKibbin took United’s second penalty and he scored to bring the scores level. Brian McMullan got into the penalty saving act when he kept out Lee Maxwell’s effort. Stuart McMullan had the chance to put United in front but he saw his strike palmed round the post by McDowell. Temple substitute Johnny Dickson converted his effort confidently to make it 2-1. United’s Paul King needed to convert his to level the scores but he was thwarted by McDowell and it was left to Carberry to win the cup tie which he duly obliged with a confident strike to give McMullan no chance.

Disappointment for United who will wonder what might have been had they not have had so many senior players missing however on a positive note their depleted squad with so many youngsters in it never gave up and they could have won it in the dying minutes of normal time. Temple battled hard throughout and shaded the game on chances created but then again neither goal keeper was that seriously troubled in either normal or extra time.

Temple go on to meet Civil Service in the 2nd Round of the Clarence Cup a game they can certainly win.

Holywood 2 v 0 Ballynahinch United

United travelled to Seapark, Holywood on Saturday past for this league encounter and they came away with nothing despite a spirited display and having the major share of the play.

The conditions were quite difficult as the game was played on a heavy pitch with strong winds and rain throughout.

In the first half United played with the wind in their backs and down the slope and they really should have done much more with the possession that they had.

The Holywood goalkeeper had to be at his very best during the first half as he kept out efforts from Ian Boal who was playing in an unaccustomed but effective attacking role and a deflected header from a defensive colleague.

The home team were defending in numbers and found the referee in a somewhat generous mood as he failed to punish a few fouls in the early stages which effectively spoiled some of United’s attacking moves. Despite all their good build up play which centered around Hunter, Smyth, Stuart McMullan, McKibbin and Cheevers they just did not get the ball into the penalty area quick enough or when the chance came to shoot often enough.

Defensively Bowman, Hayes, Brashaw and McCauley Foster were able to deal with Holywood’s speedy forwards giving keeper Brian McMullan a relatively quiet first half.

It was obvious that United were going to get things difficult in the second half, particularly as the conditions deteriorated but in the early minutes it was United who were on the front foot.

Holywood took the lead after 55 minutes when United failed to clear their lines giving the home side a series of corners. The sequence of three corners that followed involved several outstanding saves from Brian McMullan however he could not do anything when a defender side footed the ball into the net from an unmarked position.

Soon after David Kelly was introduced into central midfield which he and Johnny Hunter dominated and with the introduction of Adam Herron and Ian McMullan United were attacking from all positions but again they could not get the equaliser. The best chance came when Bowman forced a great save from the Holywood keeper however he may have been better squaring it to Kelly who might have been in a better position.

The game was over for United in the 80th minute when Holywood scored their second however it was bad luck on them because the forward was clearly offside when he received the through ball.

United threw everything at Holywood in the closing minutes but they just didn’t create the scoring opportunities that would have led to a grand stand finish.

This week United entertain Temple Rangers in the much awaited and three times postponed Clarence Cup tie. The kick-off is at 1.30pm.