Northend Youth 1 Windmill Stars 0 Saturday 24th February 2018
A truly gripping drama unfolded amid Siberian winds at Lisburn this afternoon as Northend Youth held off a thoroughly sporting and talented Windmill Stars, securing their fourth consecutive win.
The entire squad was buoyed by the welcome return of full-back Justin Mark, who went on to stamp his authority along the back line throughout the match. Fellow defenders, Shea McGinley and Kevin McAllister delivered superb performances, doggedly tackling the very menacing Windmill attack. Indeed, the first ten minutes saw the Blues somewhat floundering, with a strong and well organised Windmill Stars passing beautifully.
But, commeth the hour, commeth the manů Captain, Daniel Patterson was in receipt of the final pass in a delightful sequence worked through the Northend midfield of Finn Connon, Kurtis Adger and Oliwer Maka, and drove home sublimely to take what was the only score of the match, some fifteen minutes into the first half. Somewhat against the run of play, the Patterson strike immediately bolstered the Blues.
Yet, as the interval arrived, it was clear that Windmill Stars had not the least intention of capitulation, having vigorously tested Northend goalkeeper Thomas Hasson. However, the Blues' man in green was having none of it.
No opportunity for complacency was granted to the Ballymena men as the second half got under way. Robust tackling from midfielder Max Diamond, closed down numerous Windmill attacks, with fellow midfielder Oliwer Maka showing characteristic energy, traversing the pitch tirelessly. Harry Connon entered the fray to inject some panache, setting up several narrowly missed chances. Kurtis Adger, ever-dependable defender, today stepped up to midfield and showed real versatility, also threatening to score.
The second half seemed interminable, and the tension among travelling Blues fans was unbearable, not least when last week's hat-tricker Eryk Henjo demonstrated his ability to combine a delicate touch on the ball with powerful shooting. Likewise, Caelyn Clarke, also fresh from a hat-trick in the previous game, came within an ace of boosting his season total. Alas, these fine efforts were in vain. Even dead-ball master, Justin Mark was to hit the timber with a fine long-range effort.
Under sustained pressure at the back, Shea McGinley and Kevin McAllister dug ever deeper, thwarting numerous Windmill forays. A perfectly timed Caelyn Clarke sliding tackle disrupted a very threatening run. As the second half ebbed towards a close, every single touch of the ball had to count, with both sides showing gritty determination. Hearts were stopped on several occasions as Blues keeper Thomas Hasson averted disaster, calmly ensuring another clean sheet.
A truly uplifting performance from the whole U12 Youth squad.
Panel: T Hasson, K Adger, C Clarke, F Connon, H Connon, M Diamond, E Hejno, O Maka, J Mark, K McAllister, S McGinley, D Patterson (Capt.).
Lurgan Celtic 2 Northend United 3 Saturday 13th january 2018
In spite of atrocious weather conditions, and the residual impact of the Christmas holidays, the Young Blues produced a perfect start to 2018 in one of the most exciting matches this season. As ever, Lurgan Celtic fielded a thoroughly robust and physically imposing side, determined to stamp their authority on the game from the outset. Indeed, the Northend Lads found themselves under siege for the first ten minutes of play, culminating in an opener for Celtic as a goalkeeper Thomas Hasson parried the first shot, only for it to cannon in off two opponents. The Blues suffered a further blow when stalwart midfielder Max Diamond retired from the game. However, this U12 Youth squad has shown itself to be very resilient, with Harry Connon coming on to join brother Finn in midfield. Regaining their composure, and soaking up some very tough challenges, Northend started to pose a serious threat to the young Armagh men. Daniel Patterson once again demonstrated a perfect combination of positioning and handling, before unleashing the lesser-spotted left foot drive. The boost was immediate, and not to be outdone, fellow forward and captain Carter Reid found the Lurgan net again within a minute. Yet, Lurgan Celtic were far from ready to acquiesce, and as the end of the first half approached, they surged forward scoring against an otherwise watertight Northend defence of Kevin McAllister, Shea McGinley and Kurtis Adger. Half time 2-2
The stage was set for a gripping second half. Play resumed with both teams straining every sinew, battling fatigue and the atrocious weather conditions. The tension became unbearable as both teams clambered for possession, each carving out opportunities which saw both keepers repeatedly tested. The ever-dependable back line of Kurtis Adger, Kevin McAllister and Shea McGinley were relentless in closing down attacks. As ever, tireless midfielder Oliwer Maka straddled the length and breadth of the pitch, supporting the Northend defence, disrupting Lurgan forays and fuelling numerous opportunities for the Blues. The Connon brothers displayed perfect fraternal coordination, linked up repeatedly, and were very unlucky not to add to the tally. With less than ten minutes remaining, fittingly it was captain Carter Reid, aided and abetted by messers Connon and Patterson, who ploughed his way through the Lurgan defence to secure what proved to be the critical third goal for the Blues. Hearts were stopped as goalkeeper Thomas Hasson interdicted two possible equalisers before the final whistle eventually arrived. Quite possibly, the performance of the season so far for this team, and a thoroughly deserved win against strong opponents. Full time 2-3
Panel: T Hasson, K Adger, K McAllister, S McGinley, M Diamond, O Maka, F Connon, D Patterson, C Reid(c), H Connon