Ballynahinch United 1 v 2 Newcastle

United entertained Newcastle in this league game at the Millbridge last Saturday in the hope of exacting some revenge for a league defeat in the first few weeks of the season. The visitors have shown outstanding form during this campaign and are considered one of the potential title contenders.

It was Newcastle who showed the early initiative and they were rewarded as early as the fourth minute when Sexton fired in a tremendous free kick which gave Brian McMullan in the home goals no chance. Encouraged by the early lead the ‘Seasiders’ pushed on for more goals and it took a series of interventions by the United defence of JJ Carlisle, Ross Hayes, Davy Boal and Ethan Majury to keep them at bay. Newcastle were not to be denied and they increased their lead when Brannigan scored in the 25th minute.

United’s midfield of Aaron Cheevers, Lee Maxwell, Ian Boal, Scot Brashaw and Stuart McMullan were working overtime to cope with a fluent Newcastle team and Ian McMullan was getting very little service. Overall United were disappointed in the first half although they almost got a goal back after 35 minutes when Newcastle keeper Baker misdirected a clearance into the path of Cheevers who jinked his way into the penalty area only to see his shot sail over the cross bar.

It was inevitable that there would be a different United in the second half and so it was with the introduction of Johnny Gibson to the left wing and Gavin Crawford returning from injury into central midfield. United used the ball intelligently and Gibson gave the experienced Neill Corr a torrid time with his strong runs and accurate crosses. The pressure paid off when the two substitutes combined to get a goal back with Crawford heading home a Gibson corner.

Newcastle were completely overwhelmed at this stage and United should have scored when Maxwell was put through but Baker did well to save his shot and the keeper distinguished himself when he got his finger tips to an Ian McMullan header which looked a certain goal.

United continued to press and should have had a penalty when a defender clearly handled the ball but the referee obviously did not see it. United introduced the rangy Paul King to the action and he had a long range shot which went narrowly wide.

Newcastle to their credit managed to survive the United onslaught and in the closing period of the game they managed to retain sufficient possession to stifle United’s aspirations to get an equaliser which their second half efforts probably deserved.

Newcastle moved into pole position in Division 1B with a four point advantage over their nearest rivals and this week they travel to play Bloomfield in a league fixture. United on the other hand are in ninth position however it’s back to cup action this week with an Irish Cup tie at home to Sirocco Works. The kick-off is 1.30pm.

Ballynahinch United 2 v 1 Newcastle

United entertained Newcastle in a Division 1B league fixture at a very sunny Millbridge last Saturday.The two teams had met the week before at the Shimna Integrated School in what was a fairly tame scoreless affair however this one turned out to considerably livelier and with a considerable bit more controversy. United plans were somewhat upset when Ross Hayes reported with a back injury and had to drop out of the team at the last minute.

Right from the kick off the home side were on the offensive and surprisingly Newcastle seemed content to soak up the pressure with ten men behind the ball for most of the half. Their attacking opportunities were limited to breakaways by this tactic and a superbly well marshaled defence in which Brashaw, Carlisle, David Boal and Craig Bowman performed brilliantly were allowed to orchestrate many of their sides attacking moves.

Unfortunately for United they were unable to create any clear cut opportunities giving Baker in the seasiders goal a relatively quiet first half.

In the second half the early exchanges were controlled by Newcastle however they left themselves susceptible to the pace of United’s two forwards Ian McMullan and Aaron Cheevers who both missed good scoring opportunities in the first fifteen minutes of the second half.

The controversial moment of the second half and what possibly turned the game occurred on the hour mark. Ballynahinch United were awarded a free kick on the edge of their penalty area which was taken quickly by keeper Brian McMullan. The ball was launched into the Newcastle penalty area and it was chased by Ian McMullan who went for the ball in a clear 50/50 with keeper Paddy Baker. When the two players collided the ball appeared to come off McMullan’s hand and ended up in the back of the net. The referee who was well behind play did not and would not have been unable to see any hand ball infringement awarded the goal despite the protests of the Newcastle players.

This stroke of good fortune for United spurred them on and within five minutes they were 2-0 up when Ian McMullan pounced on a loose ball to score past the despairing dive of Baker.

Newcastle pressed hard to get back into the game but United held firm with Stuart McMullan, David Kelly, Scot McKibbin and Johnny Hunter working overtime in midfield to support their defence. Substitutes Smyth and late in the game Patterson played their part in securing three precious points that see United maintaining second spot in the league ahead of a run of at least two weeks when they play cup matches.

The game ended with a Newcastle player being sent off for a robust tackle on Boal and a number of booking for players for both side although the game was generally played in a good spirit.

This Saturday United entertain local rivals Dromore Amateurs who they have not played for a number of years. The Dromore team are currently playing in Division 1C  and have been on a good run of late and United certainly not be taking them lightly. The kick off is at 1.30pm.

Newcastle 0 v 0 Ballynahinch United

United travelled to Shimna College for a league encounter with the seasiders.

The visitors went into this game on the back of a good recent run of results and were keen to keep this going. In the first half both teams battled to find openings and it was the home side who had perhaps the best of the chances with the United keeper Brian McMullan making a couple of good saves. United midfielder David Kelly had their best chance of the half when his shot went narrowly wide.

The second half was much the same as the first however United had the best of the opportunities when Ian McMullan diverted a shot from Scott McKibbin just over the cross bar. Aaron Cheevers had a great shout for a penalty when his shot cannon off the arm of a Newcastle defender however referee Cousins adjudged it to be accidental.

The game then petered out as a contest and both team had to be satisfied with a point.

Ballynahinch United 2 v 2 Holywood FC

United entertained Holywood F.C. at the Millbridge on Saturday last and will have been disappointed not to have secured a win however being 2-0 down at half time they may well be happy enough with a point thanks to a brilliant second half comeback.

The home team were 2 – 0 down after the first 25 minutes when they conceded a penalty which was hotly disputed and a second goal through a very good header. United almost got one back before half time when Johnny Hunter hit the post.

In the second half United came out more purposeful and got a goal back when Johnny Hunter scored through a free kick on the hour mark. It would be another quarter of a hour before United got their equaliser when another Hunter free kick was headed into the net by Alan Patterson.

In the last minute the United supporters thought that they had secured all three points when Ian McMullan headed past the Holywood keeper however Scot McKibbin was adjudged to be offside as he put the ball over the line.

A great fight back from United was not enough to retain top spot in the league which was assumed by Rathfern Rangers.

This week United travel to Newcastle for their next league fixture.