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.
The Swifts met Kilmore Rec 2nds for the third time in relatively quick succession and this time in the Purdy Cup.
Due to first team call ups manager Alan Davis had to shuffle his team somewhat. There was a strong wind blowing across the Langley Road pitch which made conditions difficult and the Kilmore team settled the quicker of the two. They also took the lead from the penalty spot in the early minutes of the game which brought about a change of formation for the Swifts.
The visitors were calling the shots with the home defence and midfield having to work hard to keep them out however as the first half was nearing its end Graeme McMullan sent Aaron McCaffrey through only to see his shot go narrowly wide. Minutes later Ross Murray who was having a quiet half ran onto an Alex Burtney pass to slot the ball home.
In the second half the Swifts had a slight wind advantage but the overall conditions made flowing football almost impossible. The home defence of Onhua, Annett, Beattie and McMullan coped with Kilmore’s long ball strategy while in midfield King and Hunter started to get the upper hand. The winning goal came from a Hunter pass which found Ross Murray and his shot was parried by the Kilmore keeper however Gareth Bingham was on hand to bundle the ball into the net. In the closing minutes Blaine almost increased their lead but his shot sailed past the post.
In the end the Swifts were pleased to get into the second round of this competition.
Ballynahinch United held their annual dinner and awards presentation in the Primrose Restaurant on Saturday night.
Club Chairman Gilbert Cromie welcomed those present and thanked committee, players, supporters and sponsors for all their hard work during what had been a successful season for both the United and Swifts teams. The following awards were presented:
Managers Player of the Year: Gareth Bingham
Players Player of the Year: Graeme McMullan
Leading Scorers: Alan Massey / Graeme McMullan
Managers Player of the Year: Stuart McMullan
Players Player of the Year: Ethan Majury
Leading Scorer: Ian McMullan
Young Player of the Year: Greg Allison
Club Leading Scorers: Alan Massey / Graeme McMullan
The Golden Boot Award went to first team defender Davy Boal
The Swifts who were fresh from a rip roaring 4 – 4 draw the previous week produced something similar at Millbridge on Saturday however they had to come back from 1-0 and 3-2 down to a Killough side that battled throughout.
The visitors took the lead after ten minutes but Graeme McMullan got them back onto level terms with a shot across the keeper into the net after good work from Jaimie McPhail who had been on the score sheet the previous week.
Skipper Alan Massey gave the home team a 2-1 lead from the penalty spot when Craig McMullan was brought down however Killough struck two quick goals to take a 3-2 half time lead.
In the second half the Swifts looked much more settled and with defenders Bonner, King, McMenamin and Craig McMullan marking tightly they limited the Killough sides scoring opportunities while keeper Johnny McGreevy’s handling was excellent.
Midfielders Bingham, Massey, McPhail and Manley enjoyed greater possession giving forwards Graeme McMullan and David Griffiths a number of opportunities.
The Swifts got level when a long range cross from Shaun Bonner was mishandled by the Killough keeper into his own net.
In the last half hour manager Davy Teggarty introduced Scott McNeill at right back and moved Craig McMullan upfront along with cousin Graeme and it proved to be the decision that would secure his team maximum points. Minutes later the Swifts were ahead when Craig McMullan was upended by the Killough keeper and Alan Massey fired his second goal and his team’s winner into the net.
This week The Swifts entertained Annalong Rangers at Langley Road. With a few players coming back after missing a couple of weeks through injury and work commitments they were looking forward to the game.
The early exchanges were frantic and untidy with both teams trying to get to grips with each other and the heavy surface.
It was The Swifts who struck first after great work from Jack Patterson on the right wing resulting in a throw in. Paul King came up from defence and delivered his trademark long throw, which was met at the back post by an accurate Gareth Bingham header that flew into the top corner.
The game was hotly contested in the middle of the park with McPhail making some timely challenges. Annalong forced a corner midway through the half and The Swifts failed to deal with it and it creeped in at the near post when it really shouldn’t have.
The Swifts were determined to get back in front and that they did with good work between Graeme McMullan and Dave Griffiths saw McMullan fire a shot in from the edge of the area to give the keeper no chance.
The Swifts now in control, had John McMenamin and Shaun Bonner letting nothing past them at the back with Scott McNeil making some decent runs forward down the left flank. This coupled with McGreevy in commanding form in-between the sticks gave The Swifts a solid base on which to attack.
And attack they did with Griffiths and Massey exchanging passes with Massey then releasing Gareth Bingham who beat his man and too fire in a low shot past the keeper to make it 3-1 at the break.
The second half was scrappy and the challenges were flying in from both teams. Ben Wilson, Matty Manley and Craig McMullan were introduced as subs and Wilson in particular gave the Annalong defence real problems.
After a couple of penalty appeals being turned down after fouls on Manley – Ben Wilson beat his man in the box and when about to shoot was brought down. The referee this time gave the penalty and Massey made no mistake from 12 yards to make it 4-2 after Annalong managed to pull a goal back to make it 3-2.
The Swifts were able to see out the remainder of the game quite comfortably to win 4-2. As seen today, competition is heating up for places and it’s important that the numbers increase at training to help the team continue their 8 game unbeaten start to the season.
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