Rosario Youth 1 Northend United 2 Saturday 28th October 2023
A wet morning in South Belfast would see the young blues take on Rosario. A very competitive affair would see Northend edge the tie by the odd goal to take the points, albeit a very workman like performance.
Northend started brightly using the ball well and opening up Rosario from the outset. The pace of Kerr and Devlin on the wings was causing havoc and they were getting in behind and causing danger continuously. Within a few minutes Northend had carved Rosario open and Kerr looked to have taken the lead only for the keeper to pull off a brave save. The ball unfortunately would ricochet back off Kerr and just wide. McArdle, Lavelle and Drysdale were dominating the midfield and a well worked ball to the edge of the area saw McArdle’s composed effort well saved by the Rosario keeper. Rosario began to throw the ball forward quickly, breaking down Northend play, looking lively on the counter. Lavelle had to be switched on in goal alive to the through ball also. Northend began to look disjointed and the central pairing of O’Neill and Pekala were getting pulled out of position as the Rosario threat mounted. Finally, Rosario broke the back line and with an early shot tried to chip Lavelle but he pulled off a great save to keep the game all square. Northend then reasserted themselves on the game and started getting the ball forward quickly themselves. Another threaded ball through to Kerr seen him drive and slot his shot under the keeper. Another save! Somehow a hand on the ball deflected it just wide of goal as everyone began celebrating immaturely. Northend kept the pressure on and another McArdle strike looked to nestle in the corner but just wide of goal. Rosario were still dangerous on the counter and Lavelle needed to pull off another great save shortly after deflecting the effort wide of goal. However, Northend ended the half on top and their pressure was mounting. Big chances for McGarel, then Devlin were just wide and then a snapped drive from Da Prato was again just wide of the target. It looked like one of those days until Kerr strode into the penalty area from a through ball and dinked the ball over the keeper. He then headed his own shot into the net to take the lead. However, Rosario were not finished. Northend didn’t clear their lines to avert the Rosario threat and after a miskicked clearance from a corner the ball was picked up and a shot chipped in over the keeper unopposed on the stroke of half time. Half Time 1-1
Rosario came out in the second half on the front foot reignited from their late equaliser. Northend looked at sixes and sevens as their striker was fed through the middle one on one with Lavelle. Conor pulled off another great save but the loose ball was picked up and smashed into the back of the net. Fortunately, the player was standing in an offside position and the goal was scrubbed off. This kicked Northend into gear and striker McGarel who had a quiet first half raised the level and intensity. He was coming deep picking the ball up taking on players and trying to make the difference. McArdle and Lavelle also raised the aggression in midfield and a typical driving run would see another McArdle shot well saved. Pekala kept pushing forward and forcing the play up the right side. A through ball put Kerr through yet again but his shot rebounded off the post. Then pressure mounted on the left as McGarel stretched the defence creating openings. On three occasions McGarel was frustrated after seeing his efforts well saved by the keeper. Unperturbed his final effort would see much better contact on the ball and he fired it in into the top corner. The young keeper who had played a blinder got a hand to it but he couldn’t keep the venomous shot out. Rosario huffed and puffed toward the end but Northend fought hard to maintain their lead and see the game out. It was a highly competitive game with both teams having chances and the scoreline would have been a lot higher if not for a number of saves from both keepers. Northend bag the points and still find a way of winning if not at their best. Adrian was highlighted for a great all round game defending well, on the front foot, driving his team forward and producing great delivery into the box. Full Time 2-1
Player of the Match: Adrian Pekala
Panel: Conor Lavelle, Adrian Pekala, Hubert Pekala, Lucas Barnett, Scott Kerr, Pearse Devlin, Kian O Neill, Eoin Lavelle (c), Sam McArdle, Ethan Drysdale, Kian McGarel, Caleb Da Prato, Corey King and Liam MacNamee
Northend United 2 Carnmoney Colts 0 Friday 20th October 2023
Another SBYL night fixture under the lights this week, this time against Carnmoney at Jordanstown 3G. Playing conditions were difficult with a very strong wind which required a very different playing style for each half. Northend used the wind to their advantage in the first half to take a lead which they defended manfully in the second.
The young Pizza Parlour blues looked a different team tonight and not just because they were missing a number of first team regulars. This required a reshuffle of the pack, a change in shape and young debutant defender Ben Duncan to lead the line up front. The gamble paid off and Northend were on the front foot from the off. The front three of MacNamee, Duncan and McErlean were seeing plenty of ball and exerting high pressure on the Carnmoney defence. Support was also coming on the flanks from Devlin and Drysdale playing high up, not letting Carnmoney get out of their own half. A good bit of interplay saw Devlin pick the ball up on the wing, beat his man and get a shot off which just went wide of goal. McArdle and Lavelle were also holding a high line in the midfield and were winning ball in the centre and continuously recycling forward. A good ball into the feet of Duncan saw him turn his man and move forward towards goal. He turned inside onto his favoured right foot and stroked the ball from the edge of the area into the far corner to score a brilliant debut goal. Carnmoney worked hard to try and get the ball forward quickly but the back three of Pekala, O’Neill and Pekala looked comfortable and Lavelle was quick off his line in goal and commanding to mop up anything that came his way. In the absence of McGarel, Pekala was on corner and free kick duty and Adrian’s delivery was consistent and on point. A speculative effort from distance nearly seen Pekala score a screamer but it just went shy of the upright. McErlean seemed to be the biggest threat and most of the ball was going down the right-side. Daniel was torturing the backline and consistently causing danger and a threat. The best piece of play in the game would see Pekala link with Drysdale from the back. Ethan played a killer ball in behind and McErlean beat his man and his shot unfortunately rebounded off the upright. However, MacNamee was onto it in a flash and capped his best performance in a Northend shirt with a clinical, composed finish and another first goal for the club. Northend continued to press forward and another Duncan effort was well saved by the young keeper. However, towards the end of the half Carnmoney upped the intensity and showed they could play and a few last ditched tackles and blocks were required to keep the Northend lead intact. Half Time 2-0
The second half was a completely different game to the first. It was backs to the walls and time for resolute defending. To a man every player stepped up and were aggressive and competitive. It wasn’t pretty but it was effective, no nonsense football. A return to four at the back, with three in midfield, two wing backs and a lone striker. The team followed the instruction to clear their lines, take no risks and get the ball forward quickly to the wide men. Duncan returned to the backline and was immense with Pekala and O’Neill smashing everything. Both Devlin and McErlean provided great outlets on the wings with strong running getting the Northend men out and up the pitch. MacNamee and then Gordon provided selfless hard work for the team pressing hard, full of running and technical ability to hold the ball up and bring the midfield into play. McArdle, Lavelle, Drysdale, King and Da Prato worked their hearts out in midfield where the battle lines were drawn. McArdle took a bit of a kicking as he tried to move the boys forward earning a number of free kicks to earn a bit of respite for the team. Lavelle was also required on occasion to pull off a few saves but the whole team were resolute and looked comfortable throughout.
In the end Northend take the points and maintain their league position. Carnmoney Colts provided a great competitive encounter with little between the teams. The coaching staff were full of praise for the entire team feeling very satisfied at a very complete performance. It was gritty and dogged, exactly what the fans want to see. Duncan earns the plaudits typifying the team with a very impressive debut performance, up top in the first half and then a no nonsense performance at the back in the second. Well done all! Full Time 2-0
Player of the Match: Ben Duncan
Panel: C Lavelle, A Pekala, H Pekala, L Barnett, P Devlin, K O Neill, D McErlean, E Lavelle (c), S McArdle, E Drysdale, K McGarel, J Jamieson, B Duncan, C Da Prato and L Mac Namee
Northend United 5 Crusaders Strikers 4 Monday 15th October 2023
Monday night under the lights at Crumlin 3G, perfect playing conditions for league football. This was a game very much of two halves where the young blues raced into an early lead but were pegged back in the second half by a brilliant display by the young ladies of Seaview. Northend would however grab a late winner in a nine goal thriller to take all three points. They left the pitch with newfound admiration for the ladies game witnessing the technical brilliance of the Crues who were very unlucky in the end to leave empty handed.
Northend took a bit of time to get into the game realising that they couldn’t stand off these girls as they were pass masters and so started exerting a bit of physicality. They started getting the ball forward quickly recognising Jamieson was there most likely outlet. A great ball in behind saw a 50:50 between the Crues keeper and Jamieson who was bearing down at pace. The keeper bravely nicked in in front of Jay to clear the ball but possession was lost to the Northend midfield. Lavelle aware that the goal keeper was committed got his head up quickly and a first time chipped shot was placed into the roof of the goal. Northend settled after taking the lead and started pressing the girls high up. This had the reward of releasing McGarel who calmly and competently, rounded the keeper and slotted the ball home to double the lead. The boy’s weren’t having it all their own way and the Crusaders midfield duo started to dominate proceedings. Both Crusaders wingers were very disciplined holding their width allowing for a very expansive game. Some great one touch interplay between the midfield and the flanks saw a first time snapshot saved brilliantly by Lavelle. Barnett who was getting a torrid time on the left by the Crusaders right wing lost possession at the back resulting in an opening for the Crusader’s strikers. Pekala made a last gasp tackle which was picked up by Lavelle. The referee deemed this a back pass. The Crues worked the indirect free-kick well and smashed it into the corner to pull one back. Then Barnett redeemed himself by getting onto the ball bravely and drove inside over the halfway. He smashed a cross-field speculative effort high into the penalty area and the bounce of the ball caught the young keeper off guard and dropped in over her head. Then Jamieson on the right made a typical driving run from deep breaking the lines and smashed his shot into the corner. However, a brilliant save from the keeper pushed the ball out for a corner. From the resultant corner McGarel got onto a breaking ball in the penalty area to score his brace and take a healthy half time lead. Half Time 4-1
Northend had finished the half on top playing some nice passing football. Keep ball and a possession based style was the instruction at the break. However, the young blues were guilty of overplaying it and Crusaders were too smart cutting down passing angles, anticipating poor control and pressing aggressively. This resulted in them capitalising on a number of errors and an early goal from a misplaced kick out brought the deficit back to two. MacNamee then had a golden chance, when a corner ball broke to the back-post but the opportunity went begging as he screwed it just wide. The next twenty would be a masterclass in possession based play and the girls very much gave the boys an education in football. Northend were chasing shadows and could not live with them. Again the midfield duo of crusaders were dominant and they continuously played through the thirds from the back creating wave after wave of pressure. Two more goals yielded from pressure brought the tie level at four a piece and the girls were looking likely victors. Northend however did fight back and the football intelligence of McGarel led to a winner. Kian had realised the repetition of the passing movement and anticipated a pass closing it down quickly. He then showed composure to gain a yard of space and finish in the corner for his hat-trick, to gasps of relief from the travelling Northend support.
The girls left the pitch with their heads held high with a new found respect from their opposition. This was a lesson to the boys in how the game can be played from a very well drilled, technical unit. The plaudits this week therefore have to go to the Crusaders strikers for a team performance Full Time 5-4
Player of the Match: Crusaders Strikers
Panel: C Lavelle, A Pekala, H Pekala, L Barnett, P Devlin, K O Neill, D McErlean, E Lavelle (c), S McArdle, E Drysdale, K McGarel, J Jamieson, C Da Prato and L Mac Namee
Clonduff 1 Northend United 1 Saturday 23rd September 2023
North Belfast on a bright, autumnal morning, perfect playing conditions for a top of the table clash between the two form teams in the division. East Belfast outfit Clonduff would play hosts to Northend and the game lived up to the pre-match hype with a very competitive fixture. In the end there was little between the teams, both teams content with a share of the spoils.
The match begun with a very physical encounter both teams contesting the ball well and both teams prepared to get the ball down and play a bit of football. Clonduff showed their ability on the ball passing through the thirds and keen to get the ball in behind to their quick, physical striker. However, he was being limited by centre half O’Neill who was doing a brilliant man marking job keeping the big man quiet. The back four of Pekala, Kerr, O’Neill and Barnett were having a very strong start in general and Lavelle was quick off his line to avert any potential openings. Northend began to grow into the game and the midfield of Devlin, Lavelle, McArdle and Drysdale began to dominate and turn the screw on Clonduff. Northend created a few openings with half chances from Gordon, McGarel and McArdle but comfortable saves in the end. The closest to breaking the deadlock was an O’Neill volley at the back stick from a McGarel corner. Then on the halfway point of the first half a breaking ball on the edge of the area fell to striker McGarel. He caught it sweetly on the left foot and his volleyed finish with the outside of the boot bent and dipped into the top corner over the keepers head leaving him no chance. One that even the opposition fans had to stand and applaud. The game continued with good penetration down the outside from Devlin and Jamieson but the final ball was just missing and they were unable to fashion a chance to extend their lead. Clonduff started getting on top again and started exerting pressure towards the half end. Their striker had moved all-round the pitch to try and shake off O’Neill but he couldn’t gain a yard of space. Clonduff were limited to a few deliveries from wide in behind but Pekala and Kerr were clearing up everything and Lavelle continued to handle and kick well picking up the loose ball. Just before the half end Jamieson was finally released with a great ball in behind. He stretched his legs as he bared down on goal one on one with the keeper. Just as he was about to stride into the penalty box he was taken down from behind. The referee had no doubt that the offending tackle was from the last man and brandished a straight red card. Northend couldn’t capitalise from the resultant free kick but went in one to the good and a man advantage Half Time 0-1
Clonduff came out after half time with renewed vigour, so much so, the Northend side-line had to do a head count. They gambled at the back and pushed men forward and Northend struggled at times to find their feet. The gamble paid off for the most part but they did leave themselves exposed with a three versus three at the back. Northend did have great opportunity on the counter and Jamieson was the main threat in behind. Jay got in behind a couple of times and if not for a couple of recovery tackles and a good save Northend would have been out of sight. However, the game was still in the balance and Clonduff were overloading the flanks creating overlaps which paid dividends in the end. Halfway, through the second half another overlap allowed the wing back to deliver a cross from the touch line in over the keepers head. There was an overload at the back post and a flicked header allowed the big Clonduff Striker to get his first opportunity of the day and he forced it over the line from point blank with his thigh to level the tie. Northend fought back hard to try and regain the lead. Goal scorer McGarel turned provider when he got free down the right and crossed the ball in perfectly to Gordon in the box. Gordon hadn’t time to readjust and took a snap volleyed finish which required a strong save to keep the scores level. Another great ball in behind put Jamieson in the clear and he ran across his man and again setup another great opening. The last defender made a lunge from behind taking Jay out and caused him to role his ankle. Unfortunately, Jay had to be carried off as a result. Not long after Clonduff looked to have taken the lead when another crossed ball dropped into the back post. Just as the Clonduff winger looked to have poked the ball over the line Drysdale made a last gasp recovery tackle and somehow saw the ball out wide. It was end to end stuff as neither team was settling for the draw. Then McGarel made another breaking run down the right and delivered a killer ball across goal that was begging to be finished. It was met by Devlin who smashed his shot first time. Somehow, the keeper flew across goal and got finger tips on the shot and got enough contact to redirect the ball just over the frame of the goal. Everyone, standing watching was amazed as they all believed it was in but a better save you will be hard pushed to see this weekend. That would be the closing highlight of the match and it finished a very respectable draw for both teams. Clonduff have to be commended for the fight and determination to come back from a goal and a man down at half time. Both teams take great credit for a very entertaining, competitive game of football to a high standard. Man of the match goes to Kerr who had a masterclass at centre half, first to every ball, aggressive, strong and showed good composure and a terrific range of passing. Jay is wished well and we hope for a swift recovery. Full Time 1-1
Player of the Match: Scott Kerr
Panel: C Lavelle, A Pekala, H Pekala, S Kerr, L Barnett, P Devlin, K O Neill, E Lavelle (c), S McArdle, E Drysdale, K McGarel, J Jamieson, C Da Prato, C King, O Gordon and L MacNamee.
Carniny Youth 0 Northend United 2 Saturday 16th September 2023
Wakehurst on a Saturday morning for the Northend Blues and a derby home fixture against local rivals Carniny. No pre-match hype required and the game didn’t disappoint with a very competitive tie. Northend played most of the football in the first half and did enough to secure the points in the end.
Northend showed their intent from the first whistle, to get the ball down and play composed football. The midfield three of Da Prato, Lavelle and Drysdale were dominant making good use of the ball and delivery into the front three. A great ball early doors put McGarel in the clear but the Carniny keeper made a fine save as Kian drilled the ball across goal. The front three of MacNamee, Gordon and McGarel showed great interplay and use of the ball. A breaking ball from an attack was picked up quickly from Drysdale on the edge of the box but again his attempt was well held by the keeper. When McGarel was released for a second time he fired his shot across goal. The keeper parried the ball and captain Lavelle was onto it in a flash and smashed it into the roof of the net. The referee called the play back for a dubious offside to the consternation of the Northend dugout. Carniny tried to get the ball forward quickly and catch Northend on the counter but the back four of Pekala, O’Neill, Kerr and Devlin were solid and the pace of Kerr at the back gave reassurance on the cover against his old team. This left Carniny with only a couple of long-range attempts that never troubled Lavelle’s goal. Northend were playing the better football and the fullbacks were getting forward on overlapping runs giving width that Carniny found hard to deal with. Devlin was having a strong game on the left showing his opposite number a clean pair of heals and putting first class delivery into the box that was begging to be finished. The introduction of Jamieson on the right offered another dimension of pace and power down the right and his first time delivery was teed up perfectly for McGarel who just couldn’t get on the end of it at the back post. Jamieson got in again not long after and drilled his shot just wide of goal. The pressure was mounting. Finally, Jamieson was able to break the deadlock when he was first to react to a breaking ball and smashed the ball into the roof of the net to take the deserved lead. Northend didn’t let up and Devlin was relentless on the left. He drove into the box on two occasions with the keeper making another fine save initially and then his second attempt just past the upright. Before the half end debutant Gordon got onto a breaking ball and his shot beat the keeper into the corner. However, a Carniny defender had jumped at the ball with his hand raised and prevented it crossing the line. Penalty! To compound Carniny’s misery the referee brandished a red card. Designated penalty taker McGarel offered the ball to young Gordon, who playing up a year had his first start for the Pizza Parlour sponsored blues. He did not wilt under the pressure and capped off his first half, classy display with a debut goal, which was stroked clinically into the corner of the net. Half Time 2-0
A half time confab between the referee and the Northend coaches agreed that both teams should start the second half with 11 players owing to the double jeopardy of the hand ball, even though to the letter of the law it was the correct decision. The red card was reduced to a yellow. To be fair to Carniny they came out in the second half fighting upping their physicality and intensity. This resulted in a couple of bookings but they were now in the match and competing with Northend. Strong running and pressure on the back line forced Lavelle to lift a back pass giving Carniny their best opportunity of the game. Northend stood up well to the indirect free-kick on the edge of the box and closed it down clearing their lines. The physicality of Da Prato, McErlean and McArdle in midfield wrestled the momentum away from Carniny and again began playing forward passes behind the Carniny backline. Jamieson had the run on his man getting the better of a very physical battle and again bearing down on goal fired another shot that was saved. Not long after strike partner McGarel teed up a delicious ball to the back post meeting the run of Jamieson but he just couldn’t connect with it and the chance went begging. He would have further opportunity but again the Carniny keeper, their best player on the day, made another fine save. In the end the game was won well with a fine first half display from Northend. Carniny deserve great credit for making the game competitive to the end, pushing Northend all the way. Some strong performers in Blue but Devlin was highlighted for a fantastic full back performance on the left. He defended aggressively, headed well and got in time after time down the outside creating numerous opportunities. Full Time 2-0
Man of the Match: Pearce Devlin
Panel: C Lavelle, A Pekala, H Pekala, S Kerr, P Devlin, K O Neill, E Lavelle (c), S McArdle, E Drysdale, K McGarel, J Jamieson, C Da Prato, D McErlean, O Gordon, P Neeson and L MacNamee
Albert Foundry 0 Northend United 4 Saturday 9th September 2023
A hot September morning on Ballysillan 4G would see the young Pizza Parlour sponsored Blues compete against Albert Foundry. It was quite a one-sided affair with the Ballymena based team comfortable winners in the end.
Northend were full of energy from the off and they showed their intent from the start to get quick ball in behind the back four. Devlin and McErlean were holding the width on the flanks and were getting in easily passed their markers down the channel. The runs of MacNamee and McGarel were providing a handful for the central defensive pairing, if not for an eagerness to get forward too quickly, a few marginal offsides would keep the scoreline at bay. MacNamee was the first to fashion an opening but not enough venom in the shot gave the keeper the opportunity to make the save. Then McGarel got a yard of space of his own but put the ball just over the bar with a rifling right footed effort. Debutant McErlean got free on the right and drove at the heart of the goal and he got his shot away across the keeper but off the post and wide. Devlin on the opposite wing got in behind as well but his shot was just wide of goal. McGarel then looked to have broken the deadlock when he was put through on goal, but his sidefoot shot was saved by the keeper. Lavelle then hit the bar from a McErlean cross that was redirected into his path by McGarel. When the keeper made another save from MacNamee, it looked like one of those days, before McGarel finally got the better of him. A misplaced kickout presented McGarel with a gift and he fired it into the back of the net not giving the unfortunate keeper a chance. Albert Foundry found very little to threaten Lavelle’s goal. Patenall, Kerr, O’Neill and Barnett had them well martialled. Their only opportunity was an indirect free-kick as a result of a back pass in the box but this was spurned after it was smothered by a pressured defence. Not long after new signing McErlean broke the line, from a Lavelle kick out and charged in on goal yet again. This time he wasn’t going to miss and slotted the ball into the corner scoring on his debut to cap off a very impressive first half performance. The midfield of Drysdale and McArdle were in control of the game. McArdle started pushing forward attempting an audacious half volleyed effort from distance and then showed composure to put McGarel threw on goal once again. There was no doubt in Kian’s mind and he drew in the keeper and calmly slotted the ball past him in the corner for a first half brace. Half Time 3-0
Northend continued where they left off at half time and continued to press forward. The unusual central pairing of Da Prato and Pekala went two for two at the back and looked very comfortable in there. This allowed O’Neill and Patenall to get forward and support the play. Indeed, O’Neill got on the scoresheet after meeting a perfectly delivered McGarel corner with his head. Neeson had a great game on the right and had the beating of his man every time, his pace allowing him to get in behind and get a shot off, only for the keeper to make a good save and King was just wide with the rebound. Captain Lavelle continued his attacking midfield display from last week and continued to get shots away at goal. Northend started getting the ball down and playing some very attractive football but McGarel, King, Neeson, Lavelle and McErlean spurned a number of further opportunities. They fashioned the openings but couldn’t extend their lead further. The game petered out a little and finished quite disjointed in the heat, really and truly after having been won quite comfortably in the first half. Lots of positives from the game with continued improvement from the new players with minutes on the pitch and beginning to gel together as a unit. Lavelle gets a special mention for a very positive attacking midfield performance, supporting the play and fashioning a number of openings and chances. Full Time 4-0
Man of the Match: Eoin Lavelle
Panel: C Lavelle, N Patenall, A Pekala, K O’Neill, L Barnett, S Kerr, P Devlin, E Lavelle (c), S McArdle, E Drysdale, K McGarel, D McErlean, C King, C Da Prato, P Neeson and L Mac Namee.
Northend United 2 Newhill 1 Saturday 2nd September 2023
Mallusk on a bright, brisk September morning would see the young Pizza Parlour sponsored blues initiated into the South Belfast League. A bit of a scrappy affair on a tight pitch and little between the sides but the Northend Blues would come out on the right side of the points with a late winner.
Newhill started the brighter of the two sides and before Northend had even got themselves set, Newhill were on the attack. They broke the defensive line with their first ball forward and the pace of their number 10 got him through on goal. Lavelle was out quick from his nets and made himself big forcing the save. Northend found it hard to build any momentum and the pacey number 10 of Newhill was giving the defence a torrid time, creating all the danger down the right-side. Barnett was doing well to hold him up on most occasions but a strong challenge saw the number 10 get the better of the duel and create an opening but for Lavelle to smother once again. Kerr did well to make a block on the rebound to avert the danger. At the halfway point of the first half, McArdle came on into the middle to add some muscle and get a foot on the ball. Lavelle and McArdle did well in the midfield to try and wrestle some momentum and they started making better use of debutant Devlin and the space out wide on the left. This seemed to be the best outlet and Devlin had the pace and drive to get down the outside and get a few balls into the box. Both McGarel and new signing MacNamee showed some great footwork and touch but couldn’t get the break of the ball to get a shot on goal. The first shot at goal came from another strong Devlin run and an attempt that screwed past the left side of the post. Another opportunity on the edge of the box would see McArdle take a shot but again just wide before the half end. Half Time 0-0
A reshuffle of the pack at halftime and a switch to five in midfield seemed to give Northend the edge. They started closing down more quickly and pressing the ball higher up the pitch with King and Drysdale introduced to add weight to the midfield. New signing Neeson played as a lone striker up top and showed he had the pace to get in behind the back four. A few balls over the top set him on his way but too much composure allowed the goalkeeper to close him down. Finally, he got free and got a shot away forcing the keeper to make a save. McGarel who had been playing deeper in midfield began to get forward and support attacks leading to a great opportunity but the keeper was out quick again and made another save as McGarel attempted to poke it past him. McGarel had another attempt not long after from further out but was just wide. Newhill hadn’t given up and were trying to force Northend back with more direct play. This led to a breaking ball on the edge of the area and the ball was rifled into the top corner. Lavelle at full stretch somehow got a strong hand to the ball and forced it around the post. A better save he is unlikely to make all season. Unfortunately, as the team applauded his acrobatics they switched off to the short corner and the ball was crossed into the middle of the box, allowing a free header fired into the back of the net unopposed. The disappointment was obvious in the Northend team and they went a bit flat for a time as they run out of ideas and energy levels dipped. With ten on the clock a double substitution was made to add a bit more drive and Devlin was pushed up top to put further pressure on the back line. Northend went for it and a perfectly flighted Kerr free-kick was met by McGarel at the back post. With his first touch he killed the ball and with his second he rolled it into the corner to level the tie. Newhill responded with a big chance of their own but again Lavelle was in control and pulled off another big save pushing the ball wide of goal. Northend got the ball forward quickly and the pace and energy of Devlin and McGarel up top was frightening the Newhill defensive line. Devlin was put through twice on goal, both times the keeper was out quickly to make the save. However, Lavelle was alive and onto the second ball in a flash to fire the ball into the back of the net and win the game right at the death.
Newhill will feel unfortunate not to come away with at least a draw but the new look Northend side showed they have the fight and resilience to give any team in this league a game. It was nice to see three new players line out in the Northend blue Devlin, Neeson and MacNamee but it would be one of the old guard to get the plaudits today. Lavelle in goal was named man of the match for a great all round performance kicking well, good decision making, handling and a number of first class saves. Full Time 2-1
Man of the Match: Conor Lavelle
Panel: C Lavelle, H Pekala, N Patenall, A Pekala, L Barnett, S Kerr, P Devlin, E Lavelle (c), S McArdle, E Drysdale, K McGarel, C King, C Da Prato, P Neeson and L Mac Namee