United travelled to New Grosvenor last Tuesday night for the second of the seasonâ€™s two midweek games against a strong Sirocco Works team who had like their opponents not found that winning formula after three league games.
The early exchanges were even with Sirocco enjoying the advantage of a strong wind while Unitedâ€™s slick passing enabled them to gain valuable attacking opportunities. United suffered the loss of forward Gareth McMullan with a hamstring injury after twenty minutes. Sirocco created a few chances which Brian McMullan dealt with well while at the other end the Sirocco keeper pulled off an outstanding goal line clearance from a shot by David Kelly. On the half hour mark as United pressed up field they were caught out by a long ball which left the Sirocco centre forward free to run through and slip the ball past Brian McMullan. This was a blow for United however they were not to be behind for long as after a few unproductive attacks Dalton Tate released Stuart McMullan on the right wing and he slipped the ball to David Kelly who centred for Gavin Crawford to head superbly into the net.
In the second half United had the advantage of the wind and they varied their tactics with more use of the longer diagonal ball which caused the Sirocco defence lots of problems. Time and again Stuart McMullan and Aaron McCaffrey beat the offside to create openings.
In the 50th minute following excellent work on the right wing by Craig Bowman found David Kelly who created an opening for Scott Brashaw to run into the penalty area and unleash a shot that went in off the post to give United the lead.
This was a lead that United were determined to hold onto and this was epitomised throughout the team. In defence Paul Dickson rose to clear a barrage of long balls while his defensive colleagues Davy Boal, Craig Bowman and Craig McMullan repelled attacks all along their back line. Brian McMullan who was rarely troubled still handled superbly when called upon. In midfield Kelly, Tate, Brashaw and Crawford worked their socks off while Stuart McMullan and McCaffrey provided an excellent first line of defence as they harried the Sirocco defenders at every opportunity.
Despite holding the lead things remained tense until the 80th minute when United got their third goal which always looked as if it would come. Once again it was pressure on the right wing that created the opening and when McCaffrey latched onto the ball in the penalty area he cleverly side footed it to David Kelly who thumped it into the roof of the net.
Sirocco pushed hard in the closing minutes to get back into the game but United remained steadfast to hold on to the valuable three points they had worked so hard for. Gareth Bingham replaced the hard working McCaffrey in the forward line and like all his team mates he put in a valuable shift.
This result is a just reward for some decent performances by United in these opening league matches of the season. Over the next three weeks they face Lisburn Rangers, East Belfast and Killyleagh in cup matches.
United continued their recent good form with a victory over East Belfast side Bloomfield who had been having a steady season until recent weeks.
From the kick off United were on the front foot and within the first minute should have gone ahead when Maxwell shot wide when well positioned. Bloomfield responded and forced a series of corners with Brian McMullan having to make a number of timely interceptions. Ethan Majury was in exceptional form in defence along with Davy Boal, Scott Brashaw and Stuart McMullan who had their work cut out.
In midfield Aaron Cheevers, Ian Boal and Gavin Crawford put in a strong shift and their hard work was rewarded when Ian McMullan shot home from close range after 25 minutes to give United the lead. Gavin Crawford should perhaps have doubled the score just before the half time whistle but he was forced wide.
Bloomfield began the second half strongly however United started to get the ball to Johnny Gibson on the left wing were his pace and crosses caused the visiting defence a lot of trouble however their goal was not troubled as much as it should.
Gareth McMullan came on in the second half to make his first appearance since returning to the club last week and he made an instant impact when he charged down a defenders clearance. The ball spun wickedly across the penalty area and Ian McMullan sensibly waited until he brought it under control before weaving his way back onto the edge of the six yard area to shoot into the net to make it 2-0.
JJ Carlisle and Nathan Farquhar were introduced during the last quarter and they helped to reduce the threat posed by Bloomfield who were reduced to ten men in the closing minutes following a stupid second yellow card for dissent.
This was a good performance by United who travel to Lisburn Rangers this Saturday.
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 theÂ ascendancyÂ 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 Unitedâ€™s keeper Bryan McMullan was dealing competently with everything that came his way.
Jacksonâ€™s pace which was never fully utilised in the first half became more of a feature of Unitedâ€™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 Lisburnâ€™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 Unitedâ€™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. Unitedâ€™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 ifÂ 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.
United entertained Lisburn Rangers in their penultimate league fixture at Millbridge on Saturday last. This proved to be a difficult encounter although United will be bitterly disappointed that their superior percentage of play did not yield all three points.
In the first half United were out of the blocks very quickly and Lisburn were hemmed into their own half for most of the time although they were quite dangerous on the break giving United defence of Foster, Brashaw, Boal and Herron some difficult moments while Brian McMullan was called upon to make one excellent stop.
In midfield Smyth, Hunter, Stuart McMullan and Aaron Cheevers were controlling things but they just couldnâ€™t create the openings for hard working forwards Ian McMullan and Scott Brashaw.
Lisburn were reduced to ten men on the half hour when a moment of indiscipline followed moments later by a crude tackle on Cheevers wasÂ suitably rewarded.
In the second half Lisburn regrouped and on the hour mark following a strong and persistent run by their centre forward he managed to hold of the tackles of Foster and Brashaw to score with a delicate shot that gave McMullan no chance.
Ian McMullan who had been lively all afternoon scored the equaliser in the 65th minute however despite the introduction of Kelly, Bowman and Allison United were unable to get their noses in front.
Unitedâ€™s last game of the season takes place at the Millbridge on Saturday 4thÂ May.
IRISH CUP ROUND 3
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.