Ballymena, N. Ireland
Est 2003
Northend United 3 Clonduff 1   Sunday 19th November 2023

High expectations around this fixture after both teams finished unbeaten, joint top on points of their supplementary league. Also, nothing between the teams with a 1-1 draw last time out. This contest did not disappoint and was a very physical encounter which Northend edged to take the points and lay down a marker in the new league.
Northend started from the off flying into every tackle and pressing with intensity and vigour. Captain Lavelle led the cavalry in midfield backed up with McArdle and McErlean who showed their intent early doors. The young Blues made good use of the ball out wide and Jamieson was the best outlet, torturing the Clonduff backline. McGarel and MacNamee were very busy up top harassing and occupying the central pairing allowing Jamieson the time and space to drive at the defence. An early shot from Jamieson and a save from the keeper alerted them to Jamieson as the danger man. However, they could do nothing to stop him shortly after when Jay was put through. He rocketed an early shot into the far corner not giving the keeper a chance to get set and he could only watch on as Northend took the lead. Clonduff reacted and started putting pressure down the right side, creating overlaps and driving Northend backwards. The pressure was mounting and a smart save was required by Lavelle when their centre forward sneaked around the back of Kerr and got a shot away. The bench reacted and brought on Pekala and Da Prato to give a better shape to their defence. A few big tackles seemed to get the young blues back on the front foot again. Pekala, Kerr, Pekala and OíNeill looked assured and aggressive at the back. McGarel started to come deeper and began linking the interplay with Jamieson. Jay would have another few opportunities, one just sailing over the bar. Before the half end Northend capped of a perfect first half performance with another goal. A threaded ball in over the top saw McGarel run in one on one with the keeper and Kian, cool as you like, slotted it into the far corner for a healthy half time lead.  Half Time 2-0

As expected, the game was by no means over and Clonduff came out with renewed vigour and put up a real fight. Challenges were flying in from both teams and nobody was allowed any time or space on the ball. Again, however Northend had the cutting edge up top, moving the ball quickly and creating opportunities. McErlean was driving down the left side creating openings and was too honest not to go down when two players made no attempt at the ball in the penalty area. Again Jamieson had a couple of openings and was unlucky not to grab another. To their credit Clonduff kept fighting hard, earning a free kick just inside the Northend half. A perfectly flighted delivery was put in over the Northend defensive line. Captain Lavelle made a brave effort to clear his lines and was very unfortunate when his clearance dropped just under the cross bar leaving his brother in goal no chance. Northend reacted really well to the setback and were gain on the front foot. OíNeill who had pushed into midfield played the ball into McGarel and he slipped through strike partner Jamieson. The keeper was out quickly and smothered the ball. Jamieson was very harshly given a yellow card but the ball was there to be won and had to be contested. Nonetheless, Northend continued to play and minutes later McGarel was put through again and he calmly rounded the keeper and smashed the ball into the back on the net for his brace and to restore their two-goal advantage. Northend did not take their foot off the pedal and continued to press high up creating openings. The frustration for Clonduff boiled over into a few bookings and then finally a red card for descent. Northend nearly further extended their lead with efforts from MacNamee and McArdle just wide. In the end Northend were more than deserved of their victory with a very complete performance. This was by far and away their best performance of the season against a very good Clonduff side who were hard working and competitive. Every player was deserved of the victory but Jamieson was given the man of the match performance for a very complete competitive performance on the wing and up front. He tortured the Clonduff backline and was highlighted as the danger man early on. Full Time 3-1

Player of the Match: Jay Jamieson
Panel: C Lavelle, A Pekala, H Pekala, L Barnett, S Kerr, K O Neill, E Lavelle (c), S McArdle, C Da Prato, D McErlean, J Jamieson, K McGarel and L MacNamee
Larne Youth NL 7 Northend United 2   NIBFA Cup    Friday 10th November 2023

Another tough tie in the NIBFA cup for the Pizza Parlour sponsored blues, this time an away fixture to National League academy side Larne. Perfect playing conditions on a lush 4G surface at the Academy of Sport, The Cliff, on a floodlit night. This would be quite a dominant performance for Larne where they exerted their authority on the tie early doors, winning quite comfortably in the end, despite a much improved Northend second half performance.
Larne showed their intention from the off pressing with intensity, moving the ball quickly and exploiting their pace on the flanks. McErlean did really well in the first few minutes to limit attacks down the left side. He set Jamieson off on the counter with space and numbers in behind but the ball unfortunately caught his heel and Larne were onto it in a flash. They switched the play quickly onto the right, their rapid winger got in behind and cut it back Larne having two players free for a tap in, very soft. Northend were at sixes and sevens, nerves of the occasion getting the better of them. They didnít learn their lesson and immediately from the restart Larne went down the right again and players were queuing up to walk the ball into the net. Two down within the first five minutes and it looked likely a long night and a possible cricket score. Larne started passing the ball around and dominating possession but Northend grew into the game and the back three of OíNeill, Duncan and Kerr looked secure. A switch to five in midfield made them more competitive and McArdle, Lavelle and McKay started winning more ball. The match was now a contest. A great bit of skill by McGarel turned two players and opened up the pitch. He played a perfectly weighted ball in behind the full back to Jamieson. Jayís pace got him in behind and he calmly slotted it passed the keeper. The ball just shaded the wrong side of the post with gasps from the well supported travelling crowd. Northend kept playing and McKay picked the ball up inside the Larne half beating two players and driving at the heart of the defence. He got to the edge of the box and it opened up for a shot. Domhnall faked the shot and scooped it over the last defender putting Jamieson in the clear. Jay looked favourite to the ball but the keeper was out quickly and smothered the attempted shot. Jay kept putting the pressure on the backline drawing a foul on the edge of the area. An opportunity for McGarel to bend one round the wall but his attempt was cleared after hitting the defence. Unfortunately as Northend pressed forward a long ball in behind caught them on the counter. Lavelle came out of his goal favourite to the ball but stopped half way, wary of the pace of their striker. Kerr chased him back holding him up and showing him on the outside. However, the striker took the shot early catching Lavelle off balance and a scuffed shot rolled into the corner of the goal. At this point Northend heads dropped and they looked shell shocked. Larne upped the intensity and within a couple of minutes the game as a contest was over as a player walked through the heart of the defence and rolled the ball in without even an attempt at a tackle. The last ten minutes was a training exercise of keep ball for Larne and they got another before the half end. In truth they could have scored another two or three but Lavelle made a few brave saves in goal.  Half Time 5-0

The game was all but over at half time, Larne already contemplating their next round opponents but the Blues coaches asked the players to go out in the second half and play for the shirt and restore a bit of pride. The boys didnít disappoint and produced a much improved performance. McKay playing up top as a lone striker got through on goal within a few minutes of the restart, he rounded the keeper but the defender came round on the cover to prevent a certain goal. Northend kept the pressure and intensity high and Larne were feeling the pressure for the first time and started to give away a few free kicks, earning a couple of bookings. A perfectly flighted delivery from McKay seen two Northend players running in free at the backpost. OíNeill chested it down and captain Lavelle smashed it into the back of the net to get one back and a glimmer of hope. The game was very even both teams creating opportunities but with both defences looking strong. Another great ball in behind would see McKay one on one with the keeper. The keeper was out quickly to make the save but McKay was sharp onto the loose ball and took it away from the keeper rolling the ball into the empty net. When McGarel was put through one on one with the keeper minutes later, it looked like the impossible was possible but the keeper made another good save. Northend finished strongly Jamieson driving in behind and smashing the ball just wide of the post. However, against the run of play the game ended very disappointedly when Larne scored two goals in the last two minutes, both very soft. The first saw the centre half run from deep right past the whole team unopposed and then stroke home. The last would be very unfortunate after a brilliant double save from Lavelle but nobody picking up the loose ball for another tap in. All in all Larne were more than deserved of their victory, showing that little bit more composure and ability on the ball. They didnít have it all their own way and Northend can be very proud of their second half performance. Lots of strong performers within the Northend ranks but McKay stood out on his return to the team. A goal and an assist and lots of composure and competiveness demonstrating little ring rustiness. Full Time 7-2

Man of the Match: Domhnall McKay
Panel: C Lavelle, A Pekala, H Pekala, L Barnett, S Kerr, B Duncan, P Devlin, K O Neill, E Lavelle (c), S McArdle, E Drysdale, D McErlean, J Jamieson, D McKay, K McGarel and L Mac Namee.
Northend United 3 Carryduff Colts 0    Monday 30th October 2023

Another evening under the lights in Crumlin, this time facing tough opponents in Carryduff. This would be a competitive encounter that Northend would battle through and exert their authority winning quite comfortably in the end.
Both teams started brightly and the first ten minutes was a very physical encounter with both teams trying to get the upper hand. Northendís best outlet was on the wings with both Devlin and McErlean offering width and penetration on the outside. In turn Carryduff were playing the long ball in behind to their wingers, trying to carve out an opening. Both wingbacks Pekala and Barnett remained focused and competitive with the assurance of OíNeill and Kerr on the cover. Eventually, Lavelle and McArdle started to dominate proceedings in the middle pushing Northend forward. On ten minutes the pressure led to a speculative effort from Lavelle which was just wide but this would be the turning point. Northend pushed on playing their wingbacks higher and finally getting ball into Jamieson and McGarel. A driving run from Pekala on the right delivered an inch perfect cross into the penalty area. Devlin coming in from the left hand side jumped and met the ball in the air, deftly heading it down into the corner giving the keeper no chance. Pearce run off quite jubilant with his first goal for the club which was deserved of his strong start to the game. Northend kept pushing forward aggressively on the front foot and McErlean and Devlin continued to give the full backs a torrid time delivering good ball and opportunities. A Breaking ball dropped to McArdle who had a pop shot from outside the box but it was well saved. McGarel was increasingly dominating the backline and on the half hour he was brought down outside the box. He hit a trademark knuckle free kick going one way then the other but it had just too much movement on the ball and flew past the upright to the relief of the keeper. This would be a warning shot to the keeper and before the half end McGarel got onto the ball again outside the area. He set himself perfectly hitting the ball down the middle of the goal but with plenty of work on it. The keeper dived to meet it but there was just too much bend and whip on the ball and it turned passed him and into the back of the net. Half Time 2-0

Northend started the second half the way they had finished the first, dominating the ball and pressing with intensity. The midfield three of McArdle, Lavelle and Drysdale were aggressive and on the front foot. Not long after the restart Drysdale won the ball and pushed forward taking an early shot that was just wide. Northend continued to press and the threat of Jamieson through the middle was beginning to develop. A nicely threaded ball from the midfield would see Jamieson put clear through on goal. Jay took one touch to get the ball out of his feet and struck the shot early from outside the area smashing the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal. Another brilliant goal. The midfield continued to press and the front three of McGarel, Jamieson and MacNamee were hungry and dynamic not allowing Carryduff any time on the ball. The back four were in complete control and Lavelle didnít have a save to make in the second half. McErlean seemed to be everywhere hunting and harrying and keeping the intensity high. Northend were getting in behind with ease and MacNamee used his pace to stretch the backline and get a number of shots away at goal. The keeper did well to make a number of saves to keep the score down and when Lewis finally beat him the ball was just cleared off the line. It just wasnít to be. A comfortable evening at the office for the young blues and a very controlled battling performance for majority of the game. A number of strong performers but McErlean gets the plaudits for a very aggressive and energetic performance. He was strong, competitive, covered every inch of the pitch and kept getting forward keeping Carryduff under constant pressure. Full Time 3-0

Man of the Match: Daniel McErlean
Panel: C Lavelle, A Pekala, H Pekala, L Barnett, S Kerr, P Devlin, K O Neill, E Lavelle (c), S McArdle, E Drysdale, D McErlean, J Jamieson, K McGarel and L Mac Namee.