NORTHEND UNITED YOUTH FC
Ballymena, N. Ireland
Est 2003

Northend United 4 St Mary’s 3   Friday 16th February 2024

The Macaulay Wray sponsored 07s were back in action on Saturday 17th February with an early morning kick-off at the Valley Leisure Centre. The going was tough on a tricky surface and possession was turned over many times in a scrappy opening quarter. The only bright spark was Robert Crooks, his close control and dribbling runs leaving the St. Mary's defenders in his wake.
Northend looked like the team asserting control with McMahon, Nicholas, McIlhatton and O'Donnell performing well as a midfield unit. Therefore, it was against the run of play that a long ball over the top set St. Mary's impressive Kelly free to slot home with a calm finish.
Resilience is growing in this Northend outfit though, and soon after Crooks had the teams level following a cracking finish from the edge of the box.
Northend were now passing well and looking dangerous.  Another hopeful long ball then fell to Rokicinski from St.Mary's and the Belfast team saw the first half end with their team ahead. Half time 1-2

The introduction of Penney and Fyfe to the Northend midfield added energy and legs on the heavy pitch. Soon Penney had won the ball and set it up for the big striker Loughran to smash home his customary goal.
Northend were now playing well all over the park and soon added a third following a mazy run and cool finish from Crooks. As the confidence was rising, Northend's hard working midfielder Fyfe went on a run, evading several last ditch tackles to expertly pick his spot. Northend were now 4-2 to the good.
Just when it looked like this young team was cruising, St. Mary's sprung into life. However, two outstanding saves from Stewart in the Northend goals thwarted the St. Mary's forwards.
Kelly however managed to poke home for St Mary's after a few minutes of pressure, he was their standout player. 4-3 now to the Ballymena lads.
Northend regained their composure and fashioned good chances for McIlhatton and Campbell in the closing stages. The boys held out for a more comfortable win than the scoreline suggests. Well done all.
Penney, Stewart, McIlhatton and Fyfe all had very good games, but POTM has to go to the impressive Crooks. Full time 4-3

Player of the Match: Robert Crooks

Panel: Jack Stewart, Feargal McKay, Calum Matchett, Finn Penny, James McMahon, Harry Fyfe, Ryan Stephens, Michael McDonnell, Robert Crooks, Rory Neeson, Luke Campbell, Matthew Murray, Conor Loughran
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Northend United 3 Portavogie Rangers 2 Friday 9th February 2024

The Macaulay Wray sponsored 07s were back to Friday night football against a title chasing Portavogie Rangers.   The driving rain and wind coming off the Lough shore looked certain to make for a difficult evening for both teams, nothing could be further from the truth as they served up a five-goal thriller with the blues coming home with the points to avenge the early season single goal defeat.
It was the Blues who started the game the brightest with Crooks going close on 6 minutes after dancing around three defenders.  Playing with a strong breeze the Portavogie lads looked to find space behind the Northend defence, but they were finding little space.   On 14 minutes O’Donnell found space on the right and left two defenders in his wake only to see his effort on goal turned away by McAvoy for a corner.   On 20 minutes a long hopeful ball into the heart of the Blues defence saw Woods fire a first-time effort goalwards but Stewart saved well with his feet.  From the resulting corner a clumsy tackle by Neeson saw the ref point to the spot, Woods opened the scoring from the resulting penalty.  
The Northend bench were quick to react introducing Loughran who was due to start but was delayed getting to the game. The big striker’s arrival was explosive, McIlhatton played a ball down the right, Loughran was strong in the race for the ball making light of the defenders’ attention and his half volley from 35 yards just in from the sideline rocketed in off the back post.  This was one of those moments where time stood still as disbelief tuned to reality and even the Portavogie bench shook their heads and applauded, three minutes from going behind the blues were level. The rest of the half saw the Northend lads create the clearest openings as Crooks and Loughran went close but were denied by McEvoy with two fine saves. Half time 1-1

The second half saw Northend take control of proceedings with a high pressing game that caused countless problems for the Portavogie Rangers defence. With two minutes gone in the half a cross from Stevens deceived the goalkeeper and bounced off the cross bar, Penney was quickest to react to tap home from close range and put the Blues in front.   The Northend lads were dominating the exchanges and playing some great football, Penney and McKay were linking up well down the left with Penney relishing his role further up the pitch.  On 45 minutes a long ball from Penney was deflected by Timoney into the path of Loughran who fired home his second from 25 yards to double the Blues lead. 
The Blues defence and midfield were controlling the Portavogie threat and it took a special strike from outside the box by dangerman Woods to bring Portavogie back to within touching distance.  In the closing stages of the game Portavogie had one late opportunity but Stewart pulled a superb double save to make sure the points were Northend’s. This was an outstanding team performance on a night where it would have been easy to let the conditions dictate processing.   The back four of Stephens, Murray, Neeson and McKay were outstanding.  In the middle of the park McIlhatton and McMahon were back to their best with Penney adding energy on his introduction.    Loughran’s wonder goal will be talked about for many years among all who were present.  In terms of POTM McIlhatton bossed the middle of the park with a display of strength and energy worthy of the accolade but it would also be difficult to look past Murray for his confident display at the centre of defence. Full time 3-2

Players of the Match: Charlie McIlhatton and Matthew Murray

Panel:  J Stewart, R Stephens, M Murray, R Neeson, F McKay, C McIlhatton, J McMahon, M O’Donnell, R Nicholas, L Campbell, R Crooks, F Penney, C Loughran
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Northend United 2 Abbey Villa 3 Saturday 3rd February 2023

The Macaulay Wray sponsored U17s went into Saturdays game with Abbey Villa under good form. Early pressure from Northend nearly paid off when Loughran forced a good save from the Villa Keeper. Not long after on a counter break Villa took the lead when unmarked Abbey striker blasted past Stewart. Northend continued to pile on the pressure and Campbell went close for an equaliser however it did come when Nicholas was brought down inside the box which Loughran sent the keeper the wrong way from the resultant penalty. Half time 1-1

On level at the break and Northend continued to be the dominant team however conceded 2 quick goals when failing to clear their lines. 3-1 down Northend were awarded a free kick just inside the opposing half and Neeson sent a long range effort over the keeper who failed to keep it out. Game on and 10 mins left on the clock Northend failed on several occasions to get a leveller.
Northend were hard done by not getting anything from this game however excellent performances from Fyfe and Neeson. Full time 2-3

Player of the Match: Rory Neeson

Panel: J Stewart, J McMahon, F Penny, R Stephens, M McDonnell, C McIlhatton, R Crooks, R Neeson, M Murray, H Fyfe, C Loughran, L Campbell, R Nicholas, A McKee
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Northend United 6 Lower Maze 0 Saturday 27th January 2024

The Macaulay Wray sponsored 07s went into this game missing six of the team who started the previous week and a further three who were on the bench, a squad so depleted with injury and sickness that two of the u16 panel were promoted to the U17s.  Despite the challenging circumstances the boys turned on the style in the second half to run out convincing winners and extend the unbeaten run to four games.
It was Lower Maze who created an early chance, Neeson looked comfortable on the ball but his attempted back pass was intercepted by Clements who steered his shot wide of Stewart against the foot of the post but the danger was cleared by Murray.   The blues to their credit responded instantly with Crooks twice going close asking questions of Kirk in the Lower Maze goal.   On 6 minutes McIlhatton sent McKee free down the left, his cross to the back post was met by Nicholas who was pushed to the ground and the ref pointed to the spot.   Crooks stepped up and calmly slotted the ball home to the corner of the net.   On 16 mins debutant Nicholas was first to the ball on the right wing, his looping cross was mis-handled by Kirk to gift a second goal to the blues.   With a number of players only back after illness it gave an opportunity to introduce McAuley and Bamber mid-way through the half with both adding energy. Half time 2-0

The second half saw a much more confident Northend team take control of proceedings with a high pressing game that caused countless problems for the Lower Maze defence.  On 40 minutes Maka won the ball on the right and passed to Crooks who beat two players and fired home to make it 3-0. Straight from the restart Stephens won the ball back and played a wonderful pass to Maka who again provided the pass for Crooks to complete his hat-trick. On 50 minutes Bamber showed good strength holding up play and threading a pass to Crooks, his effort was blocked but McMahon was on hand to smash the ball to the top corner from 12 yards.   
The blues were now controlling the game with McAuley creating a chance for Maka but his effort went narrowly wide.  The last goal action of the game came from Crooks who swivelled and fired home his fourth of the day to make it six. This was an encouraging performance from a much changed lineup, the back four of O’Donnell, Murray, Neeson and Stephens were rarely troubled after the opening ten minutes. McMahon and McIlhatton controlled the middle of the park and looked back to their best, Maka hadn’t played a competitive game since September but was strong and full of energy. Debutant Nicholas was lively and was good money for his goal and assist.    POTM was a close-run thing, Stephens played 20 minutes last week after a 4 month lay-off, today he started out of position at left back and showed composure and class from start to finish, he was pipped by Crooks who was on fire in front of goal and was even disappointed to be substituted as he wanted five. Full time 6-0

Player of the Match: Robert Crooks  

Panel: J Stewart (c ), J McMahon, R Nicholas, R Stephens, M McDonnell, R Crooks, R Neeson, O Maka, A McKee, M Murray, C Loughran, R Bamber, J McAuley
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Tullycarnet 2 Northend United 2    Friday 19th January 2024

The Macaulay Wray sponsored 07s were in Friday night action against Tullycarnet, the last time these two sides met it was a 10-goal thriller.  Following an extended break from training due to the recent weather both teams looked rusty in the opening exchanges, but the second half delivered 10 out of 10 for entertainment.   
In the early exchanges it was the city side who went closest to opening the scoring with a long-range effort that Stewart tipped over the bar, from the resulting corner Campbell was on hand to clear the ball off the line.  The Blues were struggling to find any rhythm in their play but on 8 minutes Crooks showed his class with ball at feet as he danced around 4 defenders only to see his effort deflected for corner.  On 11 minutes the Blues broke on the counterattack, Neeson’s ball over the top saw Loughran beat the offside and get to the ball before the on-rushing keeper, hold off his marker and steer the ball to the net. Tullycarnet continued with their direct game plan and 2 minutes later levelled the game as Carnegie’s 20-yard effort found its way to the net with Stewart’s misjudging of the flight of the ball flattering the outcome. 
The first half remained tight with both sides conjuring up a few half chances but both defences controlled the tempo. Half time 1-1

The second half started much as the first with both defences on dominating the early exchanges.    On 44 minutes a ball over the top left Carnegie one on one with Neeson, the centre -half looked to have made a superb tackle but much to the surprise of most watching a penalty was awarded.  Carnegie stepped up to convert and give Tullycarnet the edge, a minute later things got worse as Penney was given a second yellow reduce the Blues to 10 men with 25 minutes to play.   The Blues management team weren’t going home without a return from this game, Matchett moved to midfield leaving a back three and a double substitution saw McIlhatton and Stephens enter the fray.  Immediately this brought dividends as Matchett, Fyfe and McIlhatton took control of the midfield battle and the Blues started moving the ball around like they had the extra man.   On 52 minutes Stewart cleared his lines and setup a chance for Loughran as he reacted quickest to the high ball, ignored the shouts of “head it” and lifted the ball superbly over Hanna and into the empty net.  
The Blues looked a threat now as their pressing game made life very uncomfortable for the Tullycarnet defence, Stephens was pulling the strings on the right linking well with Crooks and Loughran.  On 58 minutes a long ball over the top left Carnegie one on one with Stewart inside the box, the blues keeper was late with his tackle and the ref pointed to the spot.   The battle of minds was won by Stewart as he saved brilliantly to his right to deny the striker a second goal from the spot.  The 10 men were going for the win and the back 3 of McKay, Neeson and Murray were holding firm, on the hour mark Neeson surged forward but lost possession a three v one situation and a cross for Carnegie on the 6-yard box, it looked game over but Stewart again pulled off a magnificent save to deny the striker.   The Blues continued to create chances with Crooks being denied by a brilliant one handed save by Hanna.   On 68 minutes a mistimed tackle by Murray saw the ref point to the spot for a third Tullycarnet penalty, different taker same result as Stewart again dived superbly to deny Eadie.

As the final whistle sounded both teams had served up a thrilling second half for those who had turned up on a bitterly cold evening.  For the Blues this was a flat first half but an outstanding performance in the second, the 10 men were excellent showing heart determination and can even feel a little disappointed not to take all three points.   The back three were superb, Matchett’s contribution when moved to midfield was immense, McIlhatton, Fyfe and Stephens worked tirelessly as did Crooks and Loughran, the big striker a strong candidate for POTM.  Stewart who put an early mistake behind him to deliver a heroic performance with two penalty saves and another world beater late on lifts the POTM award.  It was also great to see Stephens back after a long layoff, thoughts with our captain McKay who suffered a head injury late in the game and was hospitalised and will be out of action for 3 weeks. Full time 2-2

Player of the Match: Jack Stewart 

Panel: J Stewart, C Matchett, R Neeson, F McKay, L Campbell, F Penney, M Murray, H Fyfe, J McMahon, C Loughran, R Crooks, R Stephens, R Robb, C McIlhatton
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Northend United 3 Rosario Youth 2    Saturday 13th January 2024

The Macaulay Wray 07 team got back to playing action following an extended break. With no training having taken place a sluggish start found the team going in 2 nil down at the break. Half time 0-2

After a stern half time team talk and Luke Campbell and Alfie McKee called from the bench it was all Northend in the 2nd half. Conor Loughran started the comeback with a superb penalty and shortly afterwards Luke Campbell got the team level with a surging run and finish past the keepers reach. Northend continued to press for a winner and it eventually came when Loughran sent the keeper over the line and into the net with a powerful strike from the right after a cross from Campbell. The midfield continued to boss the game with Harry Fyfe’s tenacity in the middle of the park proving difficult for Rosario to get a hold. The defence held firm with Penny, McKay, Murray and Neeson finishing the game after an injury to Matchett. Crooks proved a constant thorn for Rosario with his pressure and Northend held on for the 3 points. Full time 3-2

Street Coffee Player of the Match: Luke Campbell and Harry Fyfe

Panel: J Stewart, F Penny, F McKay, C Matchett, J McMahon, M Murray, C McIlhatton, R Crooks, R Neeson, H Fyfe, C Loughran, L Campbell, R Robb, A McKee
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