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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Match Report: Strangford 4 – 4 Ballynahinch United 2nds (20/12/14)

The Swifts travelled to Strangford on Saturday the 20th December with no doubt that they would be in for a tough game. The early exchanges were cagey, with no real chances materialising for either team. As the game progressed Strangford were gaining the upper hand and with some slack defending to aid them, they took the lead with a good finish from their striker.

Ballynahinch pushed for an equaliser and when Bingham released Dalton Tate he delivered a great ball in for Aaron McCaffery to power the ball home from close range. Strangford again pushed forward and The Swifts were again guilty of some slack defending and as a result found themselves 3-1 down at the break and their heads were down.

A stern team talk from manager Davy Taggerty seemed to galvanise The Swifts and they came out with a different attitude and were attacking with menace.

Strangford had now adopted a more physical approach with some challenges that would have belonged more on a rugby pitch, but The Swifts would not be intimidated. After a strong spell of good attacking football, a long throw from Paul King fell to Massey and he stroked the ball home from inside the penalty area making it 3-2.

With the wind in their sails The Swifts were pushing for the equaliser and from a corner Dalton Tate delivered a dangerous ball in, which the Strangford defence could not deal with and the ball was met by their defender and ended up in the top corner making the score level at 3-3.

With both teams tiring the game was stretched and when Strangford broke on the right a cross was turned in from close range and Strangford were celebrating again with the score of 4-3 in Strangford’s favour.

With not long left on the clock The Swifts pushed tirelessly through with Matty Manley and Ben Wilson, and with Alan McMullan creating openings just like his younger brother Graeme did before he had to go off injured at half time.

Backed up by Shaun Bonner, Scott McNeil and Craig McMullan in defence The Swifts were looking dangerous. Dalton Tate was proving the thorn in Strangford’s side and when he broke free in the box he was chopped down for a penalty, which Alan Massey dispatched, and the score was 4-4 with a few minutes left.

Strangford pushed and pushed for the winner and with a great save from keeper McGreevy and a last ditch block from Ian Blackwood in the final moments the score finished level.

The Swifts will be pleased to have kept their unbeaten run going in a particularly difficult game and they showed they have character throughout the team, which they will need for the difficult games that will present themselves in the new year, starting with a top of the table clash at home to Ballyvea this Saturday the 3rd January.

Match Report: Ballynahinch United 2 v 2 Rathfern Rangers

Goalkeeper Bryan McMullan has often provided that vital last line of defence for United over the last number of seasons pulling of countless last gasp or point blank saves but last Saturday, and not for the first time either, he scored the equaliser to secure his team a valuable point.

The game started very badly for United as they conceded a goal in the first few minutes from a long throw which was flicked into the path of a Rathfern forward who volleyed the ball first time past Bryan McMullan. For the remainder of the half it was United on the attack with Paul Dickson and Aaron McCaffrey going close with a header and shot respectively as Adam Herron, Dalton Tate and Stuart McMullan combined consistently down the left wing to provide a series of half chances and force corner after corner.

Rathfern, for their part, were dangerous on the break and on more than one occasion Ross Hayes or Davy Boal had to be at their very best to stop the swift breaks while Bryan McMullan pulled off a few important saves.

Ethan Majury was moved into a more forward position for this game and was a willing runner in the absence of the injured Ian McMullan and his chasing down of defenders along with Gavin Crawford and McCaffrey caused the visitors some very uncomfortable moments.

The equaliser came five minutes from half time when Davy Boal fired in a shot from the right hand side of the penalty area which nestled in the side of the net having taken a deflection.

In the second half United started brightly but appeared to lose momentum and for long periods of the second half found themselves defending breakaways which required some solid defending from Hayes, Herron and an outstanding last ditch tackle from Dickson to save a certain goal. That combined with a close penalty shout made it almost inevitable that they would concede. That was the case in the 70th minute when a Rathfern forward broke through and scored although there was a hint of offside about it.

United were now up against it but they rallied with Scott Brashaw providing the leadership from midfield but Rathfern were not about to surrender their lead as they defended stoutly. The best chance fell to Tate who shot wide from close to the penalty spot. Greg Allison, a half time substitute, David Kelly and Gareth McMullan provided a more attacking focus with a string of free kicks being secured but none could be utilised to great effect.

The game was entering its final minute when United won a corner and up came goalkeeper Bryan McMullan to get on the end of cousin Stuart’s cross and head a superb equaliser.

This was not one of United’s better performances however they proved yet again that they have grit and determination. Next week they entertain local rivals Dromara Village in a Clarence Cup tie which has a 1.30pm kick off.

Match Report: Ballynahinch United 1 v 2 New Buildings [after extra time]

A packed Millbridge was treated to a real hum dinger of a cup tie at this 1st Round Intermediate Cup game.

In the early part of the match it was United who had the better of the exchanges however they were disrupted by the loss of midfielder David Kelly after only ten minutes with a dead leg sustained in the very first challenge. They should have been ahead too but Gareth McMullan and Greg Allison failed to capitalise on the openings created. As the first half progressed the visitors enjoyed a greater share of the possession and lone forward Matty Smith was proving hard to handle for defenders Boal, Hayes, Herron and Majury. It was Smith who opened the scoring for New Buildings when a misplaced pass was intercepted and a quick through ball saw the forward close in on Brian McMullan who made a valiant effort to save his shot but to no avail.

In the second half United had the strong wind in their backs and gradually as the half progressed they took control of the game creating quite a few openings. Dalton Tate who had been relatively quiet in the first half moved further forward and he got on the end of Gavin Crawford cross to volley a shot goal ward only to see the keeper get a fingertip to it and see it cannon off the crossbar. In the 60 minute United were level when an exchange of passes with JJ Carlisle saw Davy Boal venture forward and unleash an outstanding shot which whizzed into the net.

Minutes later United had a goal disallowed when the New Buildings keeper spilled a high cross from Stuart McMullan at the feet of Aaron McCaffrey who touched it over the line but the referee adjudged that the keeper had been fouled in the build-up. United pressed continually and Ross Hayes saw his downward header bounce of the crossbar to safety.

The game went into extra time with United again pressing however neither team created any clear cut chances and the game was settled minutes before the end of the first half of extra time when Wayne Glenn crossed a ball from the touchline some forty or fifty yards from goal and with Brian McMullan who had been a virtual spectator for the previous fifty odd minutes back pedalling furiously the ball dropped in under the crossbar.

The visitors put every man they could muster behind the ball to repel United’s vain attempt to equalise and they held out for a fortuitous win however they have to be congratulated for a good performance throughout for such a youthful team.

Match Report: Ballynahinch United 3 v 1 Bloomfield (11/10/14)

United entertained East Belfast team Bloomfield at the Millbridge last Saturday in a league fixture hoping to build on the previous week’s excellent victory over Downshire YM. The visitors have had some good results of recent and were expected to provide stiff opposition and so it turned out to be. Despite having a good share of the play United were unable to convert the chances they created and midway through the first half they went 1 down and despite a spirited response they could not get level.

The half time team talk certainly had a very positive effect because United came out all guns a blazing and were level very quickly with a goal from Paul Dickson who was making his first appearance in the team for a month following suspension and holidays. Dickson converted after excellent work by Dalton Tate. Not long after their equaliser United went 2 – 1 ahead when Ian McMullan converted following some tenacious work from Tate.

The visitors pressed hard to get level but they found Brian McMullan and his defensive colleagues in a very determined mood. All over the pitch the players put in an outstanding shift and as Bloomfield risked more and more players forward they left themselves vulnerable and so it turned out to be when Gavin Crawford scored to put the game out of reach.
Manager Keith Hamilton will be very pleased with this result and the recent good run of results which his hard working team have achieved.