Ballynahinch United 2 v Lisburn Rangers 1

United opened their Northern Amateur League Division 1B campaign with a win over a youthful Lisburn Rangers side at Milbridge on Saturday.

The Millbridge pitch was in excellent condition and with a lick or two of paint to the club house and dugouts the setting was ideal for the much anticipated first game of the season.

United were in the ascendancy from the start with Stuart McMullan and Craig Bowman surging down the wings prompted by the passes from midfield of the industrious trio of ScottBrashaw, Ian Boal and debutant Gavin Crawford. Things were really looking up for United in the 20th minute when Craig Bowman popped up in the penalty area to take a layoff from another newcomer Simon Jackson to power an unstoppable shot into the net

Lisburn were very tidy at the back and through midfield but they were unable to breakdown the reliable home defence in which Ross Hayes was a colossus alongside the fast improving JJ Carlisle who was as steady as a rock in the sweeper position and the ever reliable Davy Boal.

Jackson who had a solid debut should have scored on the half hour mark when he elected to pass to partner Aaron Cheevers rather than shoot.

In the second half experienced Lisburn Rangers manager Paul Kirk made a few changes and they came more into the game but United’s keeper Bryan McMullan was dealing competently with everything that came his way.

Jackson’s pace which was never fully utilised in the first half became more of a feature of United’s play and he was put through on the left wing several times. On the hour mark Jackson made it 2-0 when he surged into the penalty area and guided a shot into the net giving the Lisburn keeper no chance.

United continued to withstand Lisburn’s promptings however the withdrawal of Ross Hayes and then the unnecessary dismissal of Ian Boal upset the balance of the game. Jay Smyth was introduced into midfield and he worked tirelessly to stem the tide however a goal by Lisburn in the 80th minute created a panic amongst United’s supporters and it took a superb save from Bryan McMullan and clearance by his cousin Stuart in the dying seconds toearn all three points.

A good start to the league campaign for United who were missing several players for a variety of reasons. United’s old failing of not scoring enough goals is something that has been vexing the supporters for some time and in fairness to manager Colin Murray and his assistant Keith Hamilton they have worked hard to secure players with a proven track record in this department and time will tell if  they can challenge for honours. This was an encouraging start and a fitting reward to the players who have worked very hard in pre-season.

Lisburn Rangers 1 v 3 Ballynahinch United


United returned to play Lisburn Rangers for the second week running having been defeated in a league match the previous week. This time it was in the 3rd Round of the Irish Cup and what a difference a week makes because when United came out onto the pitch they were in very determined mood.

The opening half hour was fairly even but it was the home team who took the lead from a corner when a forward nipped in at the near post to head past a helpless Brian McMullan.

This set back would not last for long because in the 40th minute Stuart McMullan fired in the equaliser from a free kick which gave the home keeper no chance.

In the second half United came out ‘full of beans’ playing fluent attacking football which the home side struggled to deal with. In the 55th minute they went ahead when Scot Brashaw’s shot, which was going wide, was intercepted by Craig Bowman who crashed it into the net. On the hour mark it was 3-1 when a surging run from Bowman ended with Aaron Cheevers getting on the end of the resulting cross to fire the ball into the net despite the efforts of the Lisburn Rangers keeper.

For the final half hour the home team pushed to get back into the game but in defence Ross Hayes led his comrades Herron, Brashaw and David Boal with typical determination while in midfield Hunter, Smyth, Stuart McMullan and JJ Carlisle worked hard to stem the tide. Up front Ian McMullan, an early substitute for the unfortunate Scot McKibbin who was injured in the first half, worked tirelessly causing major problems with his decisive running.

This week United are at home to Bloomfield in a league match.

Ballywalter Recreation 0 v 1 Ballynahinch United

United travelled to Ballywalter Rec on Saturday for a league fixture hoping to extend their unbeaten run to four matches.

The first half was dominated by United however they really created very little except for a header from Ian McMullan which went just over the crossbar. In the second half it was the home side who took up the running and but for a goal line clearance from Scott Brashaw and a couple of good saves from Brian McMullan they would have been behind. Gareth Bingham had one of the best of the second half scoring opportunities when his shot was well saved by the Ballywalter keeper. Just as the game seemed destined to be a scoreless draw Stuarty McMullan skipped down the left wing on 87 minutes and crossed to the back post and up stepped Craig Bowman to side foot the ball into the empty net.

These three points put United to the top of the Division 1B league table although they have played a few more games than their rivals.

This week they entertain Holywood at Millbridge.