Northend United 1 Tollymore United 6 Saturday 23rd October 2021
After the euphoria of cup football, it was back to the supplementary league for the Blues. Tollymore have been the dominant side in the early stages of the season, so this was to be a stiff test.
Tollymore started at a frantic pace creating an early chance, but Stewart dived low to his right to tun the ball round the post. The resulting corner was cleared but a long-range effort took a wicked deflection to leave Stewart no chance. Northend created a good opportunity minutes later when wing back Connon played Kaczmarek through, but his shot was well saved. Tollymore doubled their advantage from a corner and on 12 minutes made it 3 with another long-range effort. The Blues played out the half not reflecting a team that were 3 goals down, Kaczmarek hit the woodwork, Finnegan went close and McKay’s half-volley from 25 yards shaved the crossbar. Half time 0-3
The introduction of O’Donnell on the right at half-time was again the catalyst for a much more attacking spell from the Blues. A surging run down the right took the winger past 3 defenders, his powerful cross was met first time by Stephens, but the Tollymore keeper pushed his effort away.
On 42 minutes McKay and Maka combined on the left, McKay skipped past his man and played a perfect through ball behind the defender to set Kaczmarek up for a well taken goal. The Blues were worthy of the goal and continued to create chances with Stephens, McLaughlin and Kaczmarek all going close. An uncharacteristic handling error by Stewart gifted Tollymore a goal and 2 strikes in the last 4 minutes flattered the Co Down boys somewhat.
This was an encouraging performance against an excellent Tollymore side, the defence were solid with Maka, Matchett and McDonnell in a three with Connon and McKay working tirelessly on the flanks. Crooks and Stephens both worked hard in the middle of the park as did Kaczmarek up top. Full time 1-6
Man of the Match: despite only playing a half goes to Michael O’Donnell who tormented the Tollymore defence for 35 minutes.
Panel: J Stewart, F Connon, C Matchett, O Maka, M McDonnell, F McKay, B Stephens, R Crooks, J McIlhatton, P Finnegan, J Kaczmarek, M O’Donnell, D McLaughlin, J Magill
Northend United 2 Ballymoor 2 AET - Northend win on Pens Saturday 16th October 2021
The Blues travelled to Fullerton Park to take on Derry side Ballymoor in Round 2 of the NIBFA Cup. Looking the part in their new Macaulay Wray sponsored kit they hit the front early as from the kick-off Connon and Stephens combined well down the right, Stephens’ first time cross was turned into the net by Bradley under pressure from Maguire at the back post. Off to the perfect start the Blues created a host of chances but found Doherty in goal a tough nut to crack. On 15 minutes Campbell beat 2 men on the left, cut inside and fired a low shot only to be denied by another outstanding save.
The game settled into a period of stalemate with both defences dominating. With 5 minutes remaining in the first half, a quick counterattack saw Ballymoor draw level. Half time 1-1
The introduction of O’Donnell on the right gave the Ballymoor defence more to think about as the winger’s surging runs and quality crosses provided a few early chances. With 14 minutes gone McLaughlin showed composure on the halfway line spreading play to O’Donnell and off he went beating 2 men and firing in a cross which Campbell finished at the back post to restore the Blues’ advantage. With 4 minutes remaining a sliced clearance looped over Stewart to level the game at 2-2. Both teams had late chances with Stewart making a fine save when a goal looked a certainty.
Extra-time was next up, an early chance for Campbell as he beat the offside trap and looked to be through on goal only to clattered by a slide tackle from the on-rushing goalkeeper ending the striker’s involvement. Both teams created further chances with Kaczmarek missing from close range and Stewart denying Ballymoor on 3 occasions, one a high flying save to pull the ball from the air when a superb free kick had goal written all over it.
So, a game that had been tense and tight was to be decided by a penalty shootout. It was a stop start affair where the Blues never really found their rhythm. Ballymoor were first up, 0-1, Crooks made it 1 each. Ballymoor 1-2, Connon made it 2-2. A turning point, Ballymoor fire wide and O’Donnell makes it 3-2 advantage Northend. Ballymoor score again, 3-3, McKay scores to make it 4-3. Doherty had been outstanding in goals, but could he beat the outstanding Stewart, so it was going to come down to the battle of the keepers, Stewart dives to his right and turns the ball away, a blue wave descends on him as the Blues celebrate.
This performance was far from some of the previous weeks, but Cup games are about being in the hat come Monday morning. Stewart was superb in goals, the back 4 of Connon, Matchett, Maka and McKay were solid with Maka pipping Stewart for Man of the match. O’Donnell was excellent when introduced and stepped up in the shootout, McIlhatton and Crooks came good in extra time and Stephens and Campbell were lively in attack. We wish Luke a speedy recovery. Full time 2-2 (4-3 on penalties)
Panel: J Stewart, F Connon, C Matchett, O Maka, F McKay, Stephens, R Crooks, J McIlhatton, C Maguire, J Kaczmarek, L Campbell, M O’Donnell, M McDonnell, D McLaughlin, J Greer
Northend United 6 Hillsborough Boys 1 Saturday 9th October 2021
The wee blues made their way to Lisburn this week in prep for their upcoming NIBFA cup game next weekend. With several players missing due to a number of reasons it gave the opportunity for others to stake a claim for a place in next week’s squad. The Blues got off to an ideal start with Ryan Stephen's lobbing the keeper from 20 yards out after 3 minutes. Shortly after the wee blues doubled their lead when Kaczmarek coasted home with a fine finish. With the Blues now in rampant form, further goals in the first half by Campbell and a quick fire double from inform striker Kaczmarek completed his first half hat trick. Half time 5-0
With several changes made at half time. The Blues continued to pile on the pressure with Campbell and Finnegan completing the goal scoring honours. Further chances arose with Maguire, Magill, Matchett and McLaughlin unable to convert. Hillsborough continued to look for a consolation and were awarded a goal with a few minutes remaining. A n excellent mornings performance with Stewart excellent once again in nets with 4 or 5 excellent saves. The defence of Connon, McKay, Matchett, Maka and McDonnell solid all morning. The midfield of Stephen's, Maguire, Finnegan, McIlhatton, McLaughlin were inventive and the strikeforce of Campbell and Kaczmarek starting to look an excellent partnership. Full time 7-1
Panel: J Stewart, F Connon, F McKay, C Matchett, O Maka, M McDonnell, R Stephens, C Maguire, P Finnegan, C McIlhatton, D McLaughlin, L Campbell, J Kaczmarek
Northend United 4 Ballymena United 3 Saturday 24th September 2021
There’s nothing quite like an early morning derby to start the weekend, with the daily mind games set aside it was time to see who could talk with their feet and this game didn’t disappoint.
The game started at a frantic pace with Northend having a number of early chances with Campbell and Kaczmarek asking questions of the Ballymena net minder. The midfield battle was intense as the Sky blues tried to assert control and gain advantage with their physical presence. With 15 minutes gone Ballymena were awarded a free-kick within shooting distance, an excellent strike found the top corner giving Stewart no chance. Unphased by going behind the Northend Blues pushed forward in search of an equaliser. Connon set off on a good run down the right his cross found Campbell in the box, but his first-time shot was turned away for a corner. The resulting corner was only partly cleared, Maguire flicked the ball goal wards and McDonnell turned inside the box and slotted home to level the game.
Late in the first half a Ballymena attack down the left led to a Ballymena striker cutting inside to create an opportunity but Stewart’s attempt to win the ball led to a penalty which former Northend striker Termonia converted. As the half-time whistle went it was the Northend Blues who looked the more relaxed having created the lion’s share of the chances and their defence of Connon, McDonnell, Matchett and McKay in control of the threat from open play. Half time 1-2
The second half started very much as the first with several tough challenges giving the ref much to keep in check. Northend were finding more fluency in their play and within 5 minutes the game was level. Crooks and McIlhatton combined well to find Kaczmarek on the edge of the box the striker’s first touch took him away from the defence his effort was blocked but Campbell picked up the loose ball and forced home from 6 yards. The Northend defence continued to dominate, their high line frustrating the Ballymena strikers on numerous occasions with off-side decisions.
On 17 minutes McKay found Stephens on the left who skipped passed a tackle and played a through ball for Kaczmarek, the striker outpaced the first defender out muscled the second leaving him through on goal, a last-ditch lunge from the excellent Sky Blues keeper couldn’t stop the big striker and he tapped home to an open goal. The Northend boys were now dominating possession and 5 minutes later Campbell picked up the ball 20 yards from goal, turned his man and fired home an unstoppable effort to the top corner, a goal worthy of winning any game.
A late goal from Ballymena from a follow up effort after a spectacular save from Stewart gave them a glimmer of hope but Northend were solid in defence and saw out the remaining few minutes. This was an excellent performance from Northend in a feisty affair, the new look defence in only their 4th game as a unit looked solid, Crooks, McIlhatton, Stephens and Finnegan were excellent in the middle of the park. Up top Kaczmarek and Campbell were a handful all day, special mention to Campbell who as well as his two goals worked tirelessly for his team holding up play and helping out in the middle of the park. Full time 4-3
Panel: J Stewart, F Connon, C Matchett, M McDonnell, F McKay, R Stephens, C McIlhatton, R Crooks, P Finnegan, J Kaczmarek, L Campbell, M O’Donnell, C Maguire, M Mongan, J Greer
Northend United 6 Chimney Corner 3 Saturday 18th September 2021
The Macaulaywray Solicitors sponsored Northend U15s went into Saturday’s game looking to make it back-to-back wins. During the summer league Crewe was almost home soil so a return to the expansive pitch was not out of place. However, Chimney Corner had not read the script as they took the lead on 2 minutes, a speculative long-range effort dropped over the head of Stewart. The early goal acted as a wake-up call for the Blues, and they started to find some rhythm in their play as McKay and Finnegan combined well down the left creating a chance for Campbell, but his shot was well saved. Finnegan again set off on a good run down the left and fired in a cross which Kaczmarek should have converted at the back post. On 12 minutes Kaczmarek made amends as he raced onto Stephens through ball, rounded the on-coming keeper and slotted home to the empty net. Almost straight from the kick-off Kaczmarek found himself through again this time he was upended by the keeper but to everyone’s surprise the referee waved play on.
On 15 minutes McKay set Campbell free down the left, the striker skipped past 2 defenders, when it looked like he had run out of grass Campbell fired a shot to the net with the help of a deflection in the crowded 6-yard box. The Blues boosted by the second goal settled into a better spell of passing football creating several chances before Kaczmarek tapped home to put daylight between the sides. Half time 3-1
The second half started at a high tempo with the Northend boys pushing to kill the game off. In the first half Finnegan had been unselfish with possession but his first foray down into opposition territory saw him beat 2 defenders, cut inside, and find the top corner from 15 yards. The 3-goal cushion gave the Blues management the opportunity to utilise the squad with O’Donnell, Greer, Mongan and Bankhead being introduced. A clever exchange of play in midfield between McLaughlin and Stephens set O’Donnell clear down the right wing, his cross was only partly cleared, and Greer was on hand to volley home from just inside the box. With 14 mins remaining Crooks combined well with O’Donnell and his powerful shot was too hot to handle for the Corner keeper.
A late penalty and a goal from a set piece made for a final score line that didn’t reflect the game. In fairness this was a stop start performance from the blues, but back-to-back wins is always nice. Stewart was assured between the posts, in defence Connon, McKay and McIlhatton were solid, Finnegan was pick of the midfield scoring a contender for goal of the season. It was good to see Kaczmarek amongst the goals on his return. Greer also got some value game time and capped a good performance with a goal. Full time 6-3
Panel: J Stewart, F Connon, C Matchett, C McIlhatton, F McKay, Stephens, R Crooks, D McLaughlin, P Finnegan, J Kaczmarek, L Campbell, M O’Donnell, McDonnell, M Mongan, J Greer, M Bankhead
Lower Maze 1 Northend United 5 Saturday 11th September 2021
The Blues travelled to a sunny Moira Demesne to play Lower Maze in their second league outing of the new season. The pre match build up was fraught with delays in PCR test results and shuffling the squad with withdrawals due Covid. The Blues started brightly playing a high pressing game that led to early chances for Stephens, Finnegan and Campbell. On 5 minutes Campbell chased down a back pass to the Lower Maze keeper, the striker proved too strong in the tackle then skipped passed the keeper to slot home an early goal.
The Blues continued to dominate with Crooks and McLaughlin pulling the strings in the middle of the park. After 15 minutes it was 2 nil, McKay and Maguire combined well down the left, Campbell’s effort was only partially cleared, and Maguire hammered home from just inside the box. Lower Maze did have a couple of opportunities, but they found the Northend back 4 and keeper Stewart alert to the threat. With 5 minutes to go, McKay won a tackle on the halfway line skipped past two defenders and whipped in a powerful cross which Stephens met perfectly at the edge of the 6-yard box to fire home on the half-volley. Half time 0-3
A number of changes at half-time unsettled the Blues a little and saw Lower Maze pull a goal back during a ten-minute purple patch. The Blues held their composure with the outstanding back four of Connon, Matchett, McIlhatton and McKay reasserting their dominance. A mazey run from Maguire down the left found Campbell, his early ball found Crooks who fired home from just inside the box. O’Donnell was proving a handful on the right wing and his powerful run took him past 2 defenders to beat the keeper with a low powerful drive from 10 yards. The Blues were in cruise control for the last quarter of the game and could have added another couple of goals to their tally.
This was an excellent performance from all 16 of the panel, Matchett has made the transition from striker to centre-half with outstanding results, alongside him Maka in the first half and McIlhatton in the second were excellent. Both full backs were excellent with McKay adding an attacking element to his game down the left. In midfield Crooks, McLaughlin, Maguire and Stephens were assured and dominated for long spells. Full time 1-5
Panel: J Stewart, F Connon, C Matchett, O Maka, F McKay, R Stephens, R Crooks, D McLaughlin, C Maguire, P Finnegan, L Campbell, C McIlhatton, M O’Donnell, M Mongan, J Greer, J Magill
Northend United 1 Lisburn Rovers 4 Saturday 4th September 2021
Saturday saw a return to competitive league football at a busy Wallace Park, the difficulties with parking and park runners finishing up brought memories of a more normal Saturday morning.
Lisburn Rovers finished top of the summer league, so this was always going to be a tough first day out for the Blues. The game was evenly balanced in the early exchanges with Stewart alert to 2 long ball attacks. At the other end both Campbell and Stephens had efforts on target.
On 20 minutes a hopeful ball into the Blues defence was misjudged by Stewart and the Lisburn striker was in hand to tap home into an open goal. The remainder of the half saw the Lisburn boys dominate the midfield battles in turn making life difficult in the Blues defence. A second goal from a set piece and a last-minute 3rd in a goal mouth scramble somewhat flattered the Reds at half-time. Half time 0-3
The introduction of McIlhatton and Maka at half-time allowed Crooks to play in a more attacking role with Stephens moving to the wing. The changes paid dividends in the first few minutes of the half as Maka and Finnegan combined down the left to set Crooks through, there was still a lot to do but Crooks held off 2 challenges and fired home from the corner of the box.
The Blues now had a spring in their step, the physical battles were being won and the chances were there to draw level. With 10 mins left the Lisburn boys added a 4th when a partly cleared corner was half-volleyed to the net from the edge of the box giving Bankhead no chance. The Blues continued to offer a much tougher resistance and create chances.
This was a positive performance particularly in the second half, Stewart was assured in goals in the first half, the new look back four of Connon, Matchett, McDonnell and McKay made a solid start. In the middle of the park McLaughlin showed some excellent touches, Stephens was a threat on the wing. In the second half Crooks and McIlhatton were impressive with the latter looking more like the player of old. Full time 1-4
Panel: J Stewart, F Connon, C Matchett, M McDonnell, F McKay, R Crooks, M O’Donnell, R Stephens, D McLaughlin, C Maguire, L Campbell, C McIlhatton, P Finnegan, O Maka, M Mongan, M Bankhead