Match Report: Ballynahinch United 2 v 1 Barn United

United entertained NAFL Division 1B promotion contenders Barn United at the Millbridge last Saturday. Having taken four points from two games against Grove and Barn a few weeks ago United were anxious to bounce back from a disappointing home defeat the previous week to Portaferry.

It was the visitors who started the strongest and despite the loss of their leading scorer during the week to Premier League side East Belfast they looked like a very accomplished outfit that moved the band around with ease. United’s defensive line-up of Davis, Brashaw, Patterson and Dickson had their work cut out from the start with returning goalkeeper Hagi [Michael Vladeanu] making several excellent saves. It took about ten minutes before the home team were able to get a decent attack together however they almost scored when having been awarded a free kick outside the penalty area David Kelly’s shot ricochet’s off the Barn wall and struck the base of the post. After this United forced a number of corners through the tenacity of midfielders Allison, Kelly, Crawford and Stuart McMullan and the intelligent runs of Ross Murray and Ian McMullan. In the 20th minute this hard work was rewarded with a goal when a defender under pressure from Crawford at a corner headed into his own net.

Barn laid siege to the United goal for a period of time after this but could not get a breakthrough and from a breakaway the Barn goalkeeper brought Stuart McMullan down and David Kelly scored the resultant kick to make it 2-0.

In the second half United toiled to preserve their lead with substitutes Burtney, Fitzpatrick and Hill joining the fray to add much needed energy. Both Ian McMullan and Corey Fitzpatrick had excellent opportunities to score in one on one situation but they failed to do so.

Barn scored in the 87th minute to make it a very difficult closing period however United held on to claim a deserved three points on a day when most of the so called strugglers also achieved victories.

This Saturday there is a break from league action when United entertain one of Northern Ireland’s most famous clubs Chimney Corner in the 1st Round of the Junior Cup. While they are no longer the force they once were they will nevertheless give United a tough game. The kick-off is at 1.30pm.

Match Report: Ballynahinch United 4 v 0 Grove United

United entertained Grove United in this NAFL Division 1B league match and yes if you had to have a second look at the score line, yes United did win and convincingly at that.

United have not had the best of seasons so far following the loss of a number of senior players who have chosen to play elsewhere however the club still retain a cadre of  players who along with a strong group of young players have been working very hard to reverse the clubs fortunes. While Rome wasn’t built in a day manager Alan Davis and his assistant Paul Allison will have seen very positive signs from this performance.

Right from the start United were on the attack with a strong wind in their backs and on 15 minutes David Kelly waltzed through the visitors defence to slot the ball past the advancing keeper. On twenty minutes, team captain Gavin Crawford pounced on a loose ball to drive the ball into the Grove net from twenty-five yards.

Grove, despite going behind proved to be a constant threat and the United defence of Paul Dickson, Alan Patterson, Scott Brashaw and Jack Davis had to be on their toes while keeper John McMenamin blocked a number of shots to keep the visitors out. Ian McMullan and Ross Murray were proving to be a real handful for the Grove defence while the midfield of Stuart McMullan, David Kelly, Gavin Crawford and Gregg Allison worked tirelessly.

In the second half United faced an onslaught from Grove United however the defence held resolute with United having a number of forays forward and these proved to be productive when Ian McMullan scored a third on the hour mark after Stuart McMullan’s shot had come back off the crossbar. This took the pressure off somewhat however the visitors continued to cause problems particularly in midfield. The introduction of substitutes Ben Wilson, Alex Burtney and John Hill gave United extra energy to exploit defensive spaces that were created as Grove pressed for a goal. United’s fourth came when Alex Burtney found space on the left side of the penalty area and while his initial shot was saved he passed the ball across the six-yard area for Gregg Allison to side foot home.

There was a universal sigh of relief and justified excitement amongst players, management, committee and supporters alike when the final whistle was sounded. While there are many hurdles to be overcome throughout the season, this performance, if it can be repeated on a more consistent basis gives more than a glimmer of hope.

Pre-Season Friendly Match Report: Ballynahinch United 3 – 0 Moneyslane

Ballynahinch United got their preseason underway with a friendly against Mid-Ulster side Moneyslane at Millbridge last Saturday. Manager Keith Hamilton was missing a number of first team squad members, however it gave him the chance to give some of the youth team an opportunity to show what they can do and when the chance came they most certainly did.

The home side were on top for most of the first half with David Kelly running the midfield aided and abetted by Alex Miller, Gavin Crawford, Jordan Kennedy and Stuart Hunter.

Moneyslane came more into the game in the latter stages of the first half and early part of the second and defensively Greg Allison, Ross Hayes, Ethan Majury and Scot Brashaw were in commanding form while goalkeeper Brian McMullan came to the rescue on several occasions. Aaron Cheevers played up front on his own and his hold up play and distribution was excellent throughout.

United took the lead in the 30th minute when a bit of quick thinking by Cheevers led to a free kick being taken quickly for Kelly to lash it home past the visiting keeper.

During the second half four youth team players – Craig Tate, Alex Burtney, Ben Ohnuo and Jack Davis were introduced into the team and as they have been training with the seniors since late June they didn’t look one bit out of place. It was during the latter stages of the game that United increased their lead with two goals from Cheevers and Kennedy. In the 75th minute Aaron Cheevers latched onto a through ball and fired an unstoppable shot into the net while in the 85th minute Jordan Kennedy stepped up to score from the penalty spot.

This was a great start to the season however a lot of hard work has still to be done in preparation for the seasons start on 13th August at home to Wellington Rec. in the Steel & Sons Cup.

Training sessions continue each Tuesday and Thursday evening at the Millbridge and new players will be made very welcome.

Next Saturday afternoon [23rd July] United will entertain Bloomfield at the Millbridge.

Match Report: Ballynahinch United 3 v 0 Donard Hospital

United entertained old rivals Donard Hospital in this league match at the Millbridge last Saturday. The visitors had been promoted last year after a few years in Division 1C however they have found the higher level that little bit more difficult.

United settled into the game from the first whistle however it was Donard who posed a threat in the opening quarter with their right winger particularly prominent.

On one of their rare forward forages United took the lead in the 10th minute when Ian McMullan latched onto a loose ball to shoot into the corner of the net giving the Donard keeper no chance.

Donard pressed for an equaliser giving the United defence of Miller, Shaw, Majury, Tate and Stuart McMullan lots to think about however they held firm.

Goal scorer Ian McMullan was forced off with a hamstring strain and he was replaced by Johnny Stevenson who on the half hour mark laid the ball back for David Kelly to fire a thunderbolt into the net.

Kelly, Wilson and Brashaw were under a fair degree of pressure in midfield and they combined with their defence to keep Donard at bay while goalkeeper Brian McMullan produced an outstanding save in the 45th minute to prevent a goal.

In the second half Ben Wilson, who was struggling with an injury, was replaced by Gareth McMullan with striker Greg Allison moving into the left back role and Stuart McMullan taking over the central midfield position.

United were happy to surrender possession to Donard and played a containing game which proved very effective and occasionally they attacked with speed. It was from one of these quick breaks that defender Alex Miller found himself in space inside the penalty area and he crashed the ball into the roof of the net to make it 3–0.

Donard threw everything at United in the last half hour of the game and it took some serious defending to keep them out. Brian McMullan who has been in great form proved to be a competent last line of defence saving a penalty after Stuart McMullan had been harshly adjudged to have handled in the penalty area following a shot that was driven into him from relatively close range.

Graeme McMullan came on to give the United attack some added vitality and in the closing stages it was the home team who forced a series of corners.

This was another great win for United who will travel to Bloomfield this coming Saturday for another league match.

Match Report: Ballynahinch United 1 v 4 Ballynahinch Olympic

Saturday saw the second meeting between these two Ballynahinch rivals having previously played at Dromara earlier in the season in the first ever league fixture between the teams. On Saturday Olympic were the victors thanks to a superb display of goal scoring by Niall Murray who bagged himself a hat trick. For Olympic the win avenged the defeat inflicted on them by United in the earlier game.

Millbridge was the scene for this derby clash and if the large crowd that turned up were hoping to see a feisty encounter then they will have been sadly disappointed because both teams tried to play football throughout.

United fielded without Greg Allison who was absent through illness while the experienced Ross Hayes and Davy Boal were missing through suspension however in the early exchanges you would not have thought that. United laid siege to the Olympic defence forcing a number of corners and going close to scoring on several occasions. Olympic weathered the storm and played their way into the game and on 20 minutes they took the lead from the penalty spot after Adam Herron had been adjudged to have fouled. Olympic’s ace marksman Niall Murray converted.

The home side pressed for an equaliser and it came in the 35th minute when Ian McMullan  picked out Aaron McCaffrey with a long ball into the Olympic penalty area and he was upended. David Kelly dispatched the resultant penalty kick to evens things up.

It looked as if the teams would go in at half time level however United conceded a needless free kick some thirty yards out and would pay the penalty for the indiscretion. The ball was floated into the penalty area and Bryan McMullan fisted it clear under a strong aerial challenge and it fell kindly to Murray on the edge of the penalty area and he dispatched it on the volley into the empty goal.

United came out in the second half determined to get back into the game while Olympic seemed happy to sit back and while it was a fairly risky strategy considering the amount of possession that the home team had it worked mainly because United’s age old problem of not scoring enough goals to justify the possession they have continues to haunt them.

On the 50 minute mark Olympic took a 3 – 1 lead when Murray broke free and despite the presence of defender Ethan Majury and goal keeper Bryan McMullan he managed to thread the ball into the net.

Despite this set back United threw everything at Olympic in an effort to get back into the game with Dalton Tate, Stuart McMullan, Gavin Crawford, Aaron Cheevers and  the outstanding Scot Brashaw pressing forward at every opportunity. The Olympic defence held strong despite living dangerously on a number of occasions and they killed the game off in the 70th minute when Chris McVarnock broke free and scored a fine individual goal to put the game out of United’s reach.

United introduced substitutes Paul Dickson, Gareth Bingham and Gareth McMullan and did have the ball in the net in the 75th minute but it was ruled out for offside while late in the game David Kelly who worked hard throughout almost scored when his deep cross deceived the Olympic goal keeper and hit the post but fell to defender who cleared.

So on this occasion Olympic had the bragging rights with the honours even over the two games. I suspect that both teams will be meeting again next season given Newcastle’s present league form and a lead of fourteen points in the division while East Belfast and 1st Bangor have  a large number of games in hand and seem very strong.