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.
United entertained Chimney Corner in this first round Intermediate Cup game at Millbridge last Saturday. The match had been scheduled to take place the previous week however a waterlogged ground had contributed to its cancellation.
The visitors were an unknown quantity however in the first fifteen minutes United’s goalkeeper Michael Vladeanu had made three one on one saves to keep his team in the game.
Central defender Alan Patterson went over on his ankle after twenty minutes and he was replaced by Alex Burtney with Corey Fitzpatrick switching to defence. At this point United had settled into the game and had forced a number of corners and saves from the visiting keeper. Within ten minutes on being on the pitch Alex Burtney has scored two goals following combinations with Ross Murray and Ian McMullan and his efforts were added to by Stuart McMullan who made it 3 – 0. In midfield David Kelly and Gavin Crawford worked tirelessly to deny the visitors possession while defensively Jack Davis, Scott Brashaw and the Fitzpatrick brothers Corey and Dylan stood up to anything that came at them.
Having gone in 3 – 0 up at half time things looked good for the home team however the second half turned out to be a stressful 45 minutes for management and supporters.
In fairness to Chimney Corner they came out all guns a blazing in the second half and their efforts were rewarded with a penalty on the hour mark which gave them something to fight for. United weathered the initial storm but could not find the fluency they had in the first half.Conceding another goal late in the game kept everyone on the edge of their seat to the end but credit to the players who battled hard to keep their win. United will entertain Mid Ulster side Craigavon City in the next round in mid-November.
Last Saturday was the traditional cup final celebrations at the Millbridge which started at 2.00pm with a match featuring two teams made up of over and under 30’s which provided great entertainment and lots of fun as well as seven goals.
Despite going a few goals down the under 30’s stormed back to win 4-3. Each player taking part made a contribution to support David Griffiths who sustained a broken leg earlier in the season playing for the 2nds and a presentation was made to David prior to the player’s awards event.
Following the game everybody moved to the clubhouse were they enjoyed a buffet meal followed by the annual end of season prize giving. Club Chairman Gilbert Cromie in his opening remarks thanked all those who had worked tirelessly behind the scenes to organise and finance the club or maintain its Millbridge facilities. He highlighted the stewardship of Treasurer Gareth Bingham and the diligence of groundsman Jimmy Brown who although present is currently recovering from a knee operation. He thanked the many club sponsors for their continued support and the supporters who turned up in their numbers throughout the season which was very much appreciated.
Referring to the first team’s relegation disappointing as it was he thanked former manager Keith Hamilton for his unstinting efforts and expressed the club’s gratitude to Scott Brashaw and Ross Hayes for stepping in to take in the role until the end of the season.
One shining light in the season was the introduction of an almost entirely youth based second team managed by Alan Davis and Paul Allison which had received considerable plaudits from within the Newcastle league and from which a number of players had joined the first team squad acquitting themselves very well.
In closing the Chairman refereed to the appointment of Alan Davis and Paul Allison as first team managers with Gareth Bingham and Davy Teggarty taking over the seconds. He assured them that the club committee would give them 100% support and he asked the players and supporters to do the same as we all try to take the club forward.
The awards which were presented by the first and second team managers were as follows:
Players Player of the Year: Gavin Crawford.
Managers Player of the Year: Jack Davis.
Leading Scorer: Gavin Crawford.
Players Player of the Year: Ross Murray.
Managers Player of the Year: Alex Burtney.
Leading Scorer: Ross Murray.
Young Player of the Year: Jack Davis.
Overall Leading Club Scorer: Ross Murray.
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