Ballymena, N. Ireland
Est 2003
Northend United 5 Glentoran Youth 1   Sunday 17th December 2023

A highly anticipated fixture with the only two unbeaten teams left in the league going head to head and the game didnít disappoint. This was a battle Royale with two very good sides slugging it out for bragging rights. There was nothing between the teams for three quarters of the game but Northend produced their best display of the season to win this match and lay down a marker in the league.
The match started very nervously with two heavy weights sounding each other out on a tight congested pitch. Northend setup with a back three of Pekala, OíNeill and Pekala for the second game in a row which offered a very strong platform to build the play. Northend were strong through the centre with a midfield five, Kerr returning to the team in a holding midfield role offering security. McArdle and Lavelle were combative in the centre and Devlin and McErlean offered width on the outside allowing no space for Glentoran to get in behind. The front two of McGarel and McKay were working the backline just waiting for a sniff of an opportunity. The first chance of the half fell to McKay on ten minutes but his effort was well saved. Then another opening saw Devlin play a first time killer ball around the corner and in behind the Glens defensive line. McGarel anticipated it brilliantly but his first touch wasnít strong enough to take wide of the keeper and the keeper was out quickly to make the save. Northend showed their intent and the ability to pick apart a strong back line. The game continued with robust challenges and both defences on top. Pekala and OíNeill looked assured at the back winning everything in the air, keeping the Glens at bay. Jamieson had come onto the right and started to look threatening down that side. A perfectly flighted OíNeill free kick was played in over the Glenís wall and met by Jamieson at the back post, but he couldnít get good contact and put it wide. The game started to finally open up and McKay was put through again this time the keeper pulling off a brilliant save to keep the game level. Glentoran hadnít offered much of a threat going forward until the half hour when for the first time they created space near the Northend goal. The ball was cut back to the edge of the area and a player in space took a first time shot but dragged it just wide. This was a reminder of the potential threat of the Glens. Then the best piece of play of the half saw the Glens opened up and McGarel got in down the right-side. He squared it brilliantly to McKay on the back-stick but he just didnít get enough contact on the ball to bury it and take the lead. Minutes later on the stroke of half time McKay was found again and he beat the keeper to the punch and stroked home to break the deadlock to massive ovation. The Glens didnít hang about and pumped the ball forward from the kick off met by keeper Lavelle, unfortunately he was adjudged to have touched the ball just outside the box and booked accordingly. The resultant injury time free kick was fired in across goal but Lavelle redeemed himself with a smart save and a strong hand, clearing the danger to go in one to the good at the break. Half time 1-0

As expected, there was a big reaction from the Glens after half time. They upped the intensity and aggression and started to dominate the ball and the midfield. Within the first minute they created a massive opportunity with a crossed ball along the six-yard box. Lavelle pulled off an initial save and then Pekala made a block on the goal line before OíNeill finally made the clearance from the scramble to force it over the line. Still Glentoran pushed for the equaliser and forced a free kick just outside the area. The free kick was fired in past the wall and into the far corner, Lavelle unable to prevent the goal. Northend were at sixes and sevens and looked second to everything as the Glens kept pressing to take the lead. Another delivery was put in at the back post and the Glens had numbers but could not convert home. To their credit Northend were resolute and showed a mentality that may have been lacking in many games this season. They started forcing Glentoran backwards. A through ball to McKay saw a foot race to the ball. The keeper came out of his area and McKay got their just ahead colliding with the keeper on the follow through. The ref played on as the keeper stayed down and McGarel was put through in the clear with only two defenders on the goal line. Just before Kian stroked the ball into the back of the net the referee stopped play and brought it back to the collision. The keeper had been taken out inadvertently and was injured with a follow through into the groin. Possession was given back to Northend with a drop ball. Confused and annoyed with this decision, Northend played on nearly scoring with a quick return to play. Thankfully, they didnít allow the adversity and emotion of the sidelines to effect them. They stood up, fought back hard and wrestled back control of the tie. A great bit of interplay between McGarel and McKay opened up the pitch for Jamieson on the right. The two run into the box for the return ball but there was only one thing on Jamiesonís mind. As the ball came across him Jay let fly with a thunderbolt with the outside of his boot. The thirty-yard screamer arrowed all the way into the top corner leaving the keeper no chance. This was the turning point and it was received with rapturous applause from the side-line. Even the referee went over to acknowledge the goal, not many better strikes youíll see. The Glens continued to battle hard but Northend were first to every ball, playing with a new found confidence and belief. The Glens picked up a couple of bookings as they tried to regain authority and when McGarel was put through again, this time slotting home clinically, the game as a tie all but ended, even with ten minutes still on the clock. Northend went on to see the game out comfortably with further goals from McKay and McGarel, both earning their brace. This was far and away Northendís best performance of the season. They showed a different edge to their game and mentality and were ruthless at the top end of the pitch. This was a very good Glenís side who were very difficult opponents on the day. Every player stood up and was counted and MOTM was a very difficult decision. The coaches agreed that a shout out was required to young Kerr after his return to the side in a different midfield holding role. He showed mental toughness, a bit of class and composure which just epitomised the team today. Full Time 5-1

Player of the Match: Scott Kerr

Panel: C Lavelle, A Pekala, H Pekala, S Kerr, K O Neill, E Lavelle (c), P Devlin, D McKay, S McArdle, E Drysdale, D McErlean, J Jamieson, K McGarel and L MacNamee
Northend United 1 St Malachys 0  Wednesday 13th December 2023

Another midweek fixture under the lights at Crumlin 3G for the young Pizza Parlour sponsored blues. This time out, against St Malachys. Two well matched teams in a very competitive encounter, with Northend just edging it on the night by a single goal.
Northend started on the front foot pressing high up and looked very threatening with a very attacking line up with Jamieson, McGarel and Duncan playing as a front three. Both Devlin and McErlean were looking very dominating on the wings, offering penetration and allowing McKay and Lavelle in the middle to dictate the play. Duncan got the first big opportunity of the game when he was played in behind forcing the keeper to make a smart save at his near post, deflecting off the sticks and out for a corner. The resultant corner was delivered right on the money by McGarel and Northend bundled it over the line but the referee blew it up for a foul on the keeper. McKay was showing great control in the centre of the park playing some telling balls in behind the back line. McGarel came very close on ten minutes to break the deadlock but the keeper made another save. A few minutes later another instinctive pass by McKay put McGarel through one on one with keeper. Kian cool as you like slotted the ball past the keeper into the far corner to take the lead. St Malachys stepped up the intensity and started firing long balls in over the midfield and directly in at the Northend back three. Pekala, OíNeill and Pekala looked strong for the most part but when the balls started being lifted behind them they looked vulnerable. One in particular was flicked on and seen the St Malachys striker through in on goal. Lavelle was out in a flash and made a strong recovering tackle to win the ball and smother the opportunity. Lavelle needed to be alert on two further occasions but his decision making and execution was on point averting any potential danger. Northend made a few alterations to shape and personnel which stabilised them and from then on the back three were comfortable, on the front foot and never looked under any pressure. MacNamee who had come on offered width on the right and some great interplay saw him square a cross to McKay, free in the area. Domhnall put the ball in the back of the net but the referee controversially ruled the goal off for offside. A very tight call indeed! Half time 1-0

Northend came out of the blocks again very quickly moving the ball well and fashioning some great openings. A crossed ball was fired into the area to McKay and he controlled it brilliantly and hit the shot back across goal, first time on the volley. He caught it so sweetly but it rocketed just over the upright to the relief of the keeper. Then McGarel got on the end of another couple of opportunities but again couldnít keep the ball down both sailing over the bar.  From then on in St Malachys slowly turned the screw and upped the physicality. Northend seemed to retreat and St Malachys gained control of the fixture putting a lot of pressure on Northend and for a period Northend found it very difficult to get out of their own half. OíNeill and Pekala were immense at centre half winning tackle after tackle and clearing their lines. Lavelle had only one save to make but it was a very comfortable one. Northend suffered a couple of yellow cards borne out of frustration as they tried to wrestle control of the tie. The bench reacted to freshen it up and it seemed to help stem the tide. Northend were able to get up the pitch again and created a couple of opportunities but again neither Duncan nor McGarel hit the target nor made the keeper work. Then a great ball in behind was met perfectly on the run by MacNamee who finished brilliantly in the corner. The referee again chalked the goal off for offside. This one was even more controversial as MacNamee had run from behind his man passing him to get to the ball and this caused further discontent amongst the Northend ranks. However, to their credit the boys continued to battle hard and protect their slender lead and see out a very well earned, hard fought victory manfully.  This was a very gritty and determined performance exemplified by Pekala at the back. His no nonsense style of defending stood up to the pressure and he never missed a tackle all evening. Full Time 1-0

Player of the Match: Hubert Pekala

Panel: C Lavelle, A Pekala, H Pekala, L Barnett, K O Neill, E Lavelle (c), P Devlin, B Duncan, D McKay, E Drysdale, D McErlean, J Jamieson, K McGarel and L Mac Namee
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

Player 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

Player 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.