Ballymena, N. Ireland
Est 2003
Northend Colts 3 Rosario Swifts 2   Saturday 16th December 2023

A tough match in Mallusk saw the young Blues take on Rosario. This was a very close game but in the end Northend came out the right side of a five goal battle, edging it by the odd goal.
Northend raced out of the blocks fighting and penned Rosario into their half very quickly. Higgins and McNeill had pressed the backline high up and Barnett and Neeson were offering width on the outside. It was quite congested on a tight pitch so the ball in behind or down the channel was where the space was. Duncan and Da Prato were dominant in the centre of the park and within 5 minutes Duncan played in Barnett down the channel who in turn threaded Higgins. Dara calmly slotted the ball passed the keeper but it rebounded off the inside of the post. Higgins was onto it in a flash and smashed it into the back of the net to take the lead. Rosario resorted to kicking the ball long in behind and Hardy had to be alive to the threat of the counter to avert any danger. A slight adjustment to the back four seen them quite comfortable. O’Neill marked up tight on the Rosario danger man allowing McKay to sweep in behind and Martin and Maguire looked assured at full back. Northend kept pressing for a second and Higgins came deep into the midfield and picked up the ball, drove at the backline and then fired in a screamer into the far corner to double the lead and earn his brace. Rosario heads had now dropped and Northend were getting in behind at will. The front three were quite eager to all get on the score sheet and a few offside calls and badly weighted balls spurned a number of good opportunities. Northend made a number of changes and the team seemed to take their foot off the gas and were coasting. Rosario started getting more control of the game and began to look more threatening. Then a speculative effort was crossed in from the right touchline and it sailed in way above Hardy’s head and into the far corner leaving him no chance. This seemed to spur Rosario on and they seemed to get a foothold in the match gaining ground and possession. A few dangerous corners were played in and then finally the number 9 got a yard of space and played the ball into the far corner past Hardy. The ball rebounded off the inside of the post and Hardy slipped as he tried to regain the ball allowing a tap in for the Rosario striker to level the tie before half time. Half Time 2-2

Again, a number of changes at half time saw Northend regain a foothold in the tie. They seemed a bit more settled, and Da Prato and Duncan began to dominate the midfield again. The Higgins brothers were on song and Cormac set up an opportunity for older brother Dara which was well saved by the keeper. Then King fashioned an opportunity but just wide. The game then got a bit edgy as possession seemed to change hands quite quickly as no one team was able to get their foot on the ball and knock it around. Da Prato in the midfield was showing the most composure and getting the ball forward quickly and in behind. He began pressing further up the pitch and took a speculative effort which was held by the keeper above his head. Not long after a quick throw by Duncan picked out Da Prato again who was free on the edge of the area. Caleb took one touch to get the ball out of his feet and fired it high into the roof of the net to regain the lead to applause from the side-line. To their credit Rosario continued to battle hard but never looked like fashioning another opening. Northend started moving the ball more quickly and Barnett was making some overlapping runs, working well with Higgins on the left and getting early ball into the box. Northend should have killed the tie when first Higgins and then King spurned two guilt edged chances from close range. The Rosario keeper then pulled off a spectacular save from Neeson to keep the game alive. Rosario nearly levelled at the death as they got the ball forward quickly before the final whistle. However, a diving block from Martin in his six yard box, saved the day and Northend were able to clear their lines and get over the finishing line. A tough day at the office and Rosario earn great credit for coming from behind and making it a contest right until the end. The boys will be glad to get another victory before the end of the year and they will learn a lot from this game. Cormac gets the plaudits this week for a battling performance in midfield, always on the front foot and making good use of the ball out wide.   Full Time 3-2

Player of the Match: Cormac Higgins

Panel: Lughan Hardy, Paudie Martin, Callum O’Neill, Harry McKay, Lucas Barnett, Liam Slattery, Ronan Maguire, Ben Duncan (c), Caleb Da Prato, Pearse Neeson, Cormac Higgins, Dara Higgins, Corey King and Kane McNeill.
Northend Colts 5 Albert Foundry Colts 2    Sat 2nd December 2023

The foot of Cave Hill on a cold winter morning would see top of the table clash between the young Blues and an unbeaten North Belfast outfit, Albert Foundry. A tight enough game at Mount Pleasant 3G but Northend came from behind in the second half to take all three points.
Yet again Northend were slow out of the blocks and Albert Foundry passed the ball around them easily looking to build play from the back. Northend reacted to the side-line call to put on pressure and marked up and got touch tight. The midfield three of Martin, Drysdale and Duncan started getting their foot on the ball and brought the front three of Gordon, Duncan and Higgins into play. Dara would have the first opportunity and got his shot away making the keeper work. Not long after Duncan picked the ball up on the left and drove at the defence. He side stepped a few tackles and released a thunderbolt from the edge of the area into the top corner leaving the keeper no chance to go infront. Foundry resorted to playing the ball long to get in behind the high press but the back four of Patenall, Slattery and brothers O’Neill were resolute. O’Neill was on the front foot and drove from his own half right through the heart of the defence, getting all the way to the penalty area before shooting just wide. The pressure was all one way. Da Prato on corner duty put a couple of great deliveries into the box which saw Duncan and then O’Neill just wide. Foundry had to start playing the ball backwards and Gordon intercepted a loose pass and smashed it passed the keeper but somehow it rebounded off the underside of the crossbar bounced down off the goal line and into the keeper’s hands. Another great opportunity fell to Higgins in the box and his volleyed finish went just wide. Northend then dropped off the intensity and to their credit Albert Foundry started gaining a foothold in the match. A long ball in behind from the goal keeper saw a backward clearing header in behind the defence. Hesitation between the goal keeper and the last defender allowed the Albert Foundry striker to get in behind and slot the ball into the corner to draw the game. Northend were at sixes and sevens and not long after Albert Foundry got through again this time just hitting the ball wide of the goal. Albert Foundry had their tails in the air and were very unlucky not to take a half time lead. Northend got overrun down the left side and Foundry switched the play in behind. The striker again chipped the ball past the outrushing Hardy but fortunately Da Prato got round on the cover and made a goal line clearance to keep it level at the break Half Time 1-1

Northend pulled Duncan back into midfield to go to a four and try to regain control of the tie. However, it was Albert Foundry who came out again to dominate. They continued how they had left off, pressing high up bullying the Northend defence. A poor clearance was picked up inside the Northend half and laid off to a Foundry man in space. Without pressure on the ball he thundered a 25 yard drive into the top corner gaining the lead, leaving Hardy no chance. Going behind seemed to bring a big reaction out of the young blues. Straight from the kick off they got the ball forward and dominated possession. Duncan and Drysdale in the middle were aggressive and dominant. Gordon was dropping deep getting in front of his marker and flicked a lovely ball in behind to strike partner Higgins. Dara got the ball out of his feet and stroked it in the corner to level the tie. 2-2 Game on! Duncan was driving forward offering support and tried another speculative effort, this time sailing over the cross bar. Da Prato was offering width and support on the right of midfield and playing a number of telling balls in behind. A great slipped ball saw Gordon one on one with the keeper. Cool as you like Oisin side footed the ball into the corner to regain the lead. Northend continued to press high and give Foundry Nothing. When Foundry did get the ball forward quickly Slattery and Maguire were brilliant on the cover stepping out and always on the front foot. Better communication between the backline and Hardy saw Lughan command his box to keep Foundry at bay. There would be further chances for Duncan, Da Prato, Higgins and McNeill before Northend finally put the game to bed. A whipped ball in from Da Prato saw Gordon free at the back post and he headed in over the keeper. The keeper tried to keep it out but could only palm it down into the goal. The icing on the cake would be another well worked passage of play with Gordon combining with Higgins to set him through on goal. Dara showed great composure to side foot it into the corner for a very comprehensive victory. A great performance today from the boys showing a lot of heart and desire against a top team. Strong performances all over the pitch but Higgins gets named man of the match for a very complete all round performance up top. He used the ball well, linking with the midfield and caused the Albert Foundry defence no end of bother with his strength and composure as well as a brace of goals.   Full Time 5-2

Player of the Match: Dara Higgins

Panel: L Hardy, P Martin, C O’Neill, K O’Neill, N Patenall, L Slattery, R Maguire, B Duncan (c), C Da Prato, E Drysdale, D Higgins, O Gordon and K McNeill

Northend Colts 2 Rosario Colts 1   Sunday 26th November 2023

Today was another epic battle with little between the two teams. Rosario will feel hard down by after losing a half time lead but the young Blues dug deep and earned a hard fought victory.
For the second week in a row Northend were slow out of the blocks and gave Rosario too much time and space on the ball. Their big number five had plenty of time and space to play the ball forward and Rosario’s best player their number 10 had time to get his head up without pressure and chip the ball into the back of the net, from outside of the area. Five minutes gone and a familiar story to the week before. However, Northend began to grow into the game. The addition of McKay in at centre half took their number 10 out of the game and Duncan added a bit more physicality to the midfield to allow a platform. Higgins was the main threat but looked quite isolated at times and outnumbered. Despite this Dara created a number of openings and made the keeper work on a few occasions and when he did beat the keeper his shots were just over the bar. Half Time 0-1

Northend came out in the second half a different team and moved Duncan and Martin further forward to support Higgins. The midfield three of Da Prato, Drysdale and King were dominant making good use of the ball and beginning to find a passing rhythm. Slattery and Maguire at wing back were very composed stepping out winning the ball and resetting the play. McKay and Patenall were the same at centre half and the team were now ready to play football. From the off they were getting the ball forward and putting on pressure. An early ball through the middle from Drysdale saw the threat of Duncan who breached the backline and saw his shot just wide of goal. The midfield three were squeezing up not allowing Rosario to get out or build the play. A first-time intercepted shot by Da Prato was fizzed straight back and down the keepers throat who did well to hold the save. Da Prato then picked up a loose ball and threaded a reverse pass straight into the run of Duncan. Ben took the ball wide of the keeper and from a very tight angle cut the ball back and into the back of the net to level the scores. Time after time Northend were passing the ball through the lines and the midfield three were interlinking and creating openings. Da Prato kept threading balls through to danger man Duncan but their keeper made a number of saves to keep the scores level. Then the best move of the match saw Slattery get forward from full back on the left and feed the midfield. King laid the ball into Drysdale. Drysdale composed opened up his body and spread the play to Da Prato who was free on the right. Caleb whipped a killer ball first time in from the right side. King who had got forward met the ball perfectly with this head and redirected into the top corner to take the lead. To Rosario’s credit they fought hard to get a goal back but Slattery was immense winning a competitive dual at left back where all the pressure was going. Just before the final whistle a bit of indecision from a crossed ball into the penalty area led to a point blank shot. Hardy somehow pulled off a fantastic reflex save and Northend, to the relief of their support, cleared their lines and closed the game out. A fantastic hard fought victory and a brilliant second half performance. Lots of strong performers on the day but Da Prato earns the plaudits and Pizza Parlour POTM for a very composed and competitive display. His delivery into the box was second to none and created a number of opening including assisting both goals.  Full Time 2-1

Player of the Match: Caleb Da Prato

Panel: L Hardy, P Martin, C O’Neill, H McKay, N Patenall, L Slattery, R Maguire, B Duncan, C Da Prato, C King (c), E Drysdale, C Higgins, D Higgins, O Gordon and K McNeill
Northend Colts 2 Downpatrick 4   Saturday 18th November 2023

Today was an epic battle with little between the two teams. Northend will feel hard down by because of their performance but Downpatrick edged it on the day running out winners.
Downpatrick started on the front foot getting the ball forward quickly and putting Northend under pressure. Northend were slow to react and stood off Downpatrick allowing them to get the upper hand early on. Downpatrick’s captain and best player Keenan picked the ball up outside the box. Eight men were behind the ball and allowed him to take the ball onto his favoured left foot and drive at goal. When finally some pressure was put on the ball by Da Prato, the number 10 fired the ball into the side of goal, Hardy got a hand onto it but couldn’t stop it going behind. Northend didn’t learn their lesson and when number 10 Keenan picked the ball up on the right touchline minutes later the Northend backline watched on. Yet again he cut inside on his left foot and smashed a shot, this time his 30 yard effort hit the top corner. Nothing Hardy could do about it. Seven minutes played, two goals down and Northend hadn’t even started. Northend coaches had to react quickly and put an extra player in midfield in an attempt to get a foothold in the game. Slowly Northend grew into the game and with nice passages of play worked the ball forward with a composed brand of passing football. Duncan was moved forward into midfield to add a bit more physicality and the addition of Lavelle at centre back gave a bit more steel to the spine. Lavelle and McKay were looking comfortable in at the back supported well by Martin and O’Neill on the flanks. Higgins and Gordon were becoming a bit of a handful up front and Da Prato and King were linking the play nicely moving them up the pitch. Higgins was looking the best outlet and his pace and strength was frightening the back line. Some nice threaded passes saw Higgins through on goal but he shot wide before forcing the keeper to make a save. Northend pressure was mounting and then a quickly taken throw saw Higgins release strike partner Gordon. Oisin got in ahead of the keeper to poke the ball into the corner and pull one back. All the play was going one way and again Higgins picked the ball up releasing Lavelle wide left. Eoin turned the defender one way and then the other before slipping the run of Gordon. Oisin controlled the ball on the run and smashed the ball into the back of the net to level the game before the break. Half Time 2-2

Northend started the second half with the same vigour dominating proceedings and keeping the pressure high.  Again Northend were here to play football and a great passage of play saw Higgins slipped through wide left. Dara picked the ball up driving at goal and then lifted the ball over the keeper. The keeper looked on as the ball just went wide of goal with the expectancy of everyone for the net to bulge. Very unfortunate. To Downpatrick’s credit they weren’t giving up and it became an epic battle with exchanges of possession and pressure. Downpatrick were still yet to break the backline or create an opening in the match and continued to pump long shots at goal. An effort from inside their half saw it fired in over Hardy’s head but he did well to make the save and pick up the loose ball. A free kick from Lavelle was perfectly placed in over the defensive line and King was unable to control the header and direct it goal ward. Patenall picked up the ball and hooked it back in over the wall. Northend had numbers over and Lavelle had a diving header which redirected the ball into the corner. Somehow the keeper pulled off a diving save to keep the scores level. Downpatrick then played a long ball which was defended well. Lavelle showed composure to play the ball out from the back but he slipped as he hesitated and Downpatrick were onto the loose ball in a flash. Patenall slid into make the tackle but the loose ball couldn’t have fell kinder and into the path of the danger man number 10. Hardy was out of position and ran back desperately as the shot was taken but couldn’t get back quick enough to make the save and palmed it into the net. Northend kept playing football and were confident of an equaliser. Duncan pushed on further forward and a great bit of play put him through on goal. He run across the last defender but was pulled back as he was about to shoot. He was still able to get a shot away but off balance his scuffed shot was easily saved. The Northend bench were up in anger as no action was taken and no advantage had materialised. Northend continued to push forward and Downpatrick continued to clear their lines. A soft free kick was given to Downpatrick as Lavelle cleared the ball forward. A great ball was delivered in over the keepers head. Hardy made a brilliant save and punched the ball out of the area but was smashed after the ball was cleared. The referee continued with play despite the shouts from the Northend dugout and another ball was humped into the penalty area. Hardy had got to his feet and attempted to move backwards and make the save. He valiantly saved the ball from going under the crossbar but the ball was palmed down and rolled in over the line. This would be the end of the action and the young Blues can feel very hard done by after a great battling performance. This would be the toughest test for the young team so far and they will have learned a lot from this defeat and a harsh lesson that they need to react from the first whistle until the last. Lots of great performances, great attitudes and great passages of play. The coaches were delighted with the effort, progress and continued improvement of the team. Young McKay gets the plaudits for a very calm, composed display at centre half, never looking under pressure or putting a foot wrong all day.   Full Time 4-2

Player of the Match: Harry McKay
Panel: L Hardy, P Martin, C O’Neill, H McKay, N Patenall, C Lavelle, B Duncan, C Da Prato, C King, E Lavelle, D Higgins, O Gordon and K McNeill (c)
Northend Colts 4 St Malachys OBs 2   Sunday 12th November 2023

Mallusk on a miserable, wet Sunday morning would be the return for the 2009 Colts to SBYL league football. Their opponents today would be St Malachys OB Youth. The young Blues continued their great league form with another classy performance winning the game quite comfortably. Great credit however to St Malachys to keep playing until the end.
Northend started the game on the front foot pressing high up and looking to get the ball down and play football. The midfield three of Da Prato, Patenall and King were dominant, keeping the ball in the opposition half and not allowing them to settle on the ball. Higgins, Gordon and Martin were harassing the back line forcing them backwards. A great delivery from Da Prato to the back post saw Duncan head it back across goal. St Malachy’s couldn’t clear their lines and it broke to Da Prato again on the edge of the area. He laid it into the path of King who met it first time smashing it into the top corner with a brilliant finish to take the lead. St Malachys began to get the ball forward quickly in behind Northend’s high line. Their big number 10 was a real threat and both O’Neill and Slattery had to be alert with some great recovery tackles to avert the danger. Hardy was also positioned well in goal to mop up anything that slipped through. The wing backs of Higgins and Maguire had pushed up high showing good use of the ball into the midfield to recycle the play. A great through ball from Da Prato saw Gordon on his way through the gap but he took his shot early under pressure and the keeper was able to make the save. The ball in behind was the best weapon in the wind and the rain. Another telling ball from Da Prato put Higgins through, he beat his man and dinked the ball over the keeper’s head but marginally wide of goal. From a free kick Caleb perfectly flighted the ball in behind St. Malachy’s defence again. King timed his run perfectly and met the ball in the air bringing it down and getting a shot away but just saved. Then just before the half end Higgins was put through again by a great delivery from younger brother Cormac. This time Dara rounded the keeper, lifted his head and squared it to Neeson for a tap in and his first goal for the club. Half Time 2-0

A new partnership at the back with Duncan and debutant McKay at centre half gave Northend a very strong platform to push forward. King and Patenall were playing high up allowing McNeill and Gordon to run free against the back line. Neeson and Da Prato offered the width on the wings getting plenty of ball crossed into the middle. McKay was stepping onto everything from centre half and making good use of the ball showing great composure. A perfectly flighted ball from Harry opened up the defence. Gordon knocked it down first time into the path of McNeill. Kane run onto it and slotted into the corner to break his duck for his new team, which was very popularly celebrated by the squad. McNeill and Gordon were a handful for the backline, full of running and interplay. A great ball across goal from McNeill saw the keeper intercept the delivery but it broke to Gordon on the edge of the box. With his back to goal, Oisin turned his man and chipped the keeper with a brilliant finish to end the game as a contest. Not long after McNeill smashed an audacious effort from outside the box off the corner of the upright. The keeper who well beaten stood and watched as the ball rebounded back across goal. Neeson was onto in a flash but smashed his effort just over the cross bar when the goal was begging. A few adjustments and changes and the boys seemed to drop the pace a little. St Malachys kept playing however and a quick throw saw them in behind and a crossed ball was met with an overload at the back post. Hardy pulled off a first class reaction save but the spin of the ball and the wind saw the ball just creep over the line as he desperately attempted to recover it. Just before the final whistle Northend switched off again and didn’t clear their lines. Again from the right a crossed ball was smashed in which made the scoreline a bit more respectful for the Hurricanes and they earn great credit for continuing to fight to the finish. In truth however the game was well won long before with a very complete performance from the young Colts. Lots of strong performers all over the pitch with a willingness to play football in harsh conditions, epitomised by young McKay with a strong, composed debut performance for the club. However, King gets the plaudits with a very attacking performance in centre midfield. He pressed high, was always on the front foot, made great use of the ball and scored one of his best goals to date.   Full Time 4-2

Player of the Match: Corey King

Panel: L Hardy, P Martin, C O’Neill, H McKay, N Patenall, L Slattery, R Maguire, C Higgins, B Duncan, C Da Prato (c), C King, P Neeson, D Higgins, O Gordon and K McNeill
Northend Colts 4 Antrim Soccer Academy 1   Sunday 29th October 2023

Mallusk on a wet Sunday morning would be the setting for the 2009s Colts debut performance in the South Belfast League. Their opponents today would be Antrim Soccer Academy (ASA). Northend looked very much league veterans in a classy performance and won the game quite comfortably in the end.
Northend started the game on the front foot pressing ASA high up and looking to get the ball down and play football. The midfield of Higgins, Duncan, Da Prato and King dominated proceedings albeit finding it difficult to get find the space on a congested pitch. The best outlet was down the left side with Martin feeding Cormac and in turn Dara Higgins. A great bit of football opened the Antrim side up but a snap volleyed finish from Gordon was well saved by the keeper. The ball was camped in the Antrim half and every time they got it forward the central pairing of O’Neill and Patenall were calm and controlled at the back and supported by keeper Hardy who was playing a high line. Both wing backs Martin and Slattery were providing width and setting attacks down the flanks. Antrim were sleeping when Martin provided an option for a short corner. He curled it in at the far corner but it was just wide of the post. Any touch and it was a goal. Higgins was looking the most threatening and he was getting in easy down the left side but unable to get an early shot away. His best effort was just wide of the post. Duncan was hovering high up keeping the pressure on Antrim and he also had a long effort that looked to be dropping in over the keeper but was just over the bar. However, Northend still had to be alive to the danger of a counter-attack and Antrim’s best effort of the first half was a goal bound effort dropping just into the top corner. Hardy backpedalling looked to be beaten but somehow got a strong hand and pulled off a first class save. He would have to pull off another diving save before smothering the second ball not long after. Every time Hardy recycled the ball calmly to Martin who ever composed was available offering penetration. A through ball to Higgins put him on his way. Dara showed strength and pace to get in behind and buried it into the back of the net for a debut goal. Then another great delivery from Da Prato seen Duncan hook the ball overhead with his back to goal high into the roof of the net for a very classy finish. A few more chances for King and Gordon before the half end but Higgins would get his brace with his second of the day to go in at the break three to the good. Half Time 3-0

The second half would be a much more balanced affair with the midfield of Slattery and Gordon having to work hard to get a foothold in possession. Neeson was providing a great outlet down the right and had the pace and drive to get them up the pitch. The back four of Maguire, Slattery, Da Prato and Martin were providing a classy composed performance at the back dealing with the ASA pressure. They were brave on the ball, trying to play out from the back and using the spaces well on the outside. King, Gordon and McNeill were too eager to get forward and got caught by the offside on occasion. When Gordon did beat the trap his side foot finish was well saved. Antrim finally got reward for their play when they stretched the defence before their striker beat Hardy to the ball before slotting home. Antrim upped the intensity and were very physical at the back and Neeson and McNeill were on the brunt of a few tasty challenges before the ref finally brandished a yellow card. The Higgins brothers and Duncan offered a bit more physical support and started winning the ball. Duncan rode about three challenges after making a strong direct run at goal and his smashed effort was well saved. Northend finished the half the stronger and when Gordon was fouled in the penalty area after beating his man to the ball it was opportunity to add icing on the cake. The wee man didn’t disappoint and calmly, slotted his penalty finish into the corner to cap off a very complete day at the office. The referee made a point of complementing the team for their style of play, attitude and conduct which was absolutely top drawer. A number of strong performances all over the pitch but Slattery was highlighted for a very complete performance at the back, composed, on the front foot, brave and made great use of the ball. Full Time 4-1

Player of the Match: Liam Slattery

Panel: Lughan Hardy, Paudie Martin, Callum O’Neill, Noel Patenall (C), Liam Slattery, Ronan Maguire, Cormac Higgins, Ben Duncan, Caleb Da Prato, Corey King, Pearse Neeson, Dara Higgins, Oisin Gordon and Kane McNeill