Crumlin United 2 Northend United 1 Friday 6th October 2023
Macaulay Wray sponsored 07s faced Crumlin United on Friday evening. With a stiff wind favouring Crumlin in the first half, it was always going to be a challenge however Northend started off on the front foot with McLaughlin, Neeson, McMahon and McIlhatton controlling the midfield challenges. However, on 20 minutes, Crumlin were awarded a penalty when McKay brought down the Crumlin attacker who sent Stewart the wrong way with the resultant penalty. 6 minutes later Crumlin doubled their lead when Stewart saved however Crumlin where quickest to rebound and slotted home. Crumlin tried again from a free kick which had the wind behind however Stewart made a smart save to keep Northend in the game. Half time 2-0
The 2nd half Northend came out of the blocks much better and should have scored shortly after, however McLaughlin’s header was cleared off the line. With the majority of the 2nd half played in the Crumlin half it was only a matter of time before Northend scored. A freekick was floated into the box which was met by Neeson who sent a super header past the stranded Crumlin keeper. Shortly after several chances went abegging with Campbell missing the best chance at the back post who sent his shot into the keeper’s hands. Northend continued to press however Crumlin held on to take the points. Full time 2-1
Player of the Match: R Neeson
Panel: J Stewart, F Penny, F McKay, C Matchett, J McMahon, L Heggarty, D McLaughlin, M Murray, C McIlhatton, R Neeson, C Loughran, L Campbell, M O’Donnell, R Robb, A McKee
Northend United 3 Rosario 2 Saturday 30th September 2023
The Macaulay Wray sponsored U17s were back in action hoping to leapfrog opponents Rosario in the league with a win at Mallusk. The Blues missing five regulars started the game brightly with Crooks asking early questions of the Rosario defence. On 7 minutes Loughran held up the ball on the left corner of the box, turned his marker and fired in a low cross towards Crooks, in a desperate attempt to intercept Carson hammered the ball into his own net.
The Blues pushed for a quick second goal as Loughran, Crooks and O’Donnell spurned chances in the box. On 11 minutes a long speculative ball over the blues defence saw a mix-up between Penney and Heggarty with Krusche taking advantage to slip the ball past Stewart. The Blues continued to have the lion’s share of possession but on 19 minutes Rosario won a free-kick 30 yards out, Krusche opted to chip the shot which trickled past Stewart at the far post. An injury to Heggarty saw a reshuffle with Neeson going to centre-half and McMahon slotting into central midfield for his debut. The changes started to give Northend a foothold in the physical battle as McMahon’s work rate lifted those around him. On 30 minutes Murray sent a ball down the line to O’Donnell, his cross field ball found Loughran 45 yards out, the big striker out-muscled his marker and found space between two defenders to fire a rocket to the bottom corner to level the game again. Half time 2-2
The second half started at a frantic pace with the blues showing determination and more composure in defence with Neeson outstanding. Heggarty recovered from his first half knock, took up a role in centre midfield alongside McMahon giving Crooks more freedom to show the mazey running style that lit up many of last season’s games. On 60 minutes a long ball forward from Stewart saw his opposite number Hughes look comfortable but Loughran chased the ball down and blocked the clearance to divert the ball to the net, if his first goal was spectacular this one was sheer desire to get his team back in front.
The last 10 minutes saw Rosario throw everything at the blues defence to get the equaliser but outstanding defending and a little luck saw the game finish 3-2. This was a real battling performance from a much-changed side with all 13 players doing their bit. The back four worked hard particularly in the second half, Crooks and Heggarty were solid in midfield. On any other day Loughran would have picked up POTM with an assist and 2 goals or indeed Neeson who was a rock when switched to centre-half but it goes to McMahon, who has made the switch from rugby, was unreal on his debut - his work rate and countless tackles, including one of the best you’ll ever see in his own box in the last minute. Full time 3-2
Player of the Match: James McMahon
Panel: J Stewart, M Murray, F Penney, L Heggarty, F McKay, A McKee, R Neeson, L Campbell, M O’Donnell, R Crooks, C Loughran, R Robb, J McMahon
Northend United 5 Tullycarnet 5 Saturday 16th September 2023
The Macaulay Wray sponsored 07s dominated for large spells of this entertaining game and led on five occasions only to finish up with a share of the points.
The Blues started brightly with Murray playing a neat one-two down the right with Lyttle and then driving into the box but his shot was well saved by Hanna in the Tullycarnet goal. On 5 minutes Lyttle got on the end of a neat flick from Loughran and held off two defenders to rifle the ball low in the corner. Northend continued to dominate but an uncharacteristic handling error from Stewart saw Tullycarnet level the score with a long-range effort. The Blues continued to dominate, McLaughlin skipping past his marker in the box but his shot was straight at the keeper. It was Lyttle who fired the Blues back in front when he controlled Loughran’s cross and smashed the ball home from 8 yards. Half time 2-1
The second half continued with Tullycarnet sticking to their route one approach sensing the Northend defence were not just the tight unit they normally are. On 51 minutes a long hopeful ball over the Blues defence saw Matchett in a race with Booth whose first touch was with his arm gave enough of an edge to squeeze the ball passed Stewart for the equaliser. Two minutes later the Blues were back in front as Lyttle pressed on halfway, Doherty tried to let the ball run over the sideline but Lyttle had other ideas as he left Doherty over the line and raced away down the left, cut in and smashed the ball into the bottom corner for his hat-trick. On 55 minutes Tullycarnet were level again as hesitancy in the Blues defence saw Tilson stab home from close range. As the craziness continued the fourth goal in 7 minutes arrived with Crooks dancing around 3 players in the Tullycarnet box and slotting home from 6 yards. The Blues pushed hard for another to give them some daylight in the game with Lyttle and Crooks going close but on 61 minutes Booth completed his hat-trick as he pounced on another mistake in the Northend box.
If the crowd thought the entertainment was over, they were very much mistaken as the 5 minutes of added time delivered. On 70+2 Lyttle picked up a through ball from Crooks and the big striker was just too hot to handle as he held off his marker and left another in his wake to score high into the roof of the net for his 4th of the day. Amidst the celebrations Lyttle was red-carded for an alleged remark made to a member of the coaching staff. This game was destined not to have a winner as Tullycarnet scored from another long-range effort to make it five each on 70+5.
This was a below par performance from Northend with the loss of Stephens and a new formation creating doubt in a normally solid defence. There really was only one candidate for POTM as Lyttle single handedly provided the threat and the goals but his late red card was disappointing. Full time 5-5
Player of the Match: Tommy Lyttle
Panel: J Stewart, M Murray, L Heggarty, C Matchett, F Penney, F McKay, R Neeson, L Campbell, D McLaughlin, T Lyttle. C Loughran, R Crooks, R Robb, M O’Donnell & C McIlhatton
Northend United 0 Downpatrick 2 Saturday 9th September 2023
The Macaulay Wray sponsored 07s faced a tough challenge against a strong well organised Downpatrick side on a day that saw water breaks return due to the intense heat.
First chance of the game fell to the Blues with Lyttle testing the keeper from just outside the box. On 10 minutes Murray played Loughran through but his effort was well held by Murphy. Downpatrick’s plan was the long ball but it was yielding little reward as the Blues defence were comfortable in restricting them to efforts from distance with Matchett on top form for the second game running. The midfield battle was intense with both teams showing great determination in the tackle and not a card in sight as referee McAfee delivered a masterclass. Half time 0-0
The second half saw the Blues again dominate the early exchanges but it was Downpatrick who ceased the initiative on 41 minutes with Fitzsimons firing home from the edge of the box. The Blues went chasing the equaliser but quickly found themselves two down when a long ball left Penney isolated and despite the defender’s best-efforts McCoubrey cut inside and drilled the ball home from 8 yards.
The Northend lads knew this was not a position they should have been in and set about building some momentum as they dominated possession for a 10-minute spell. The Downpatrick defence tried to build from the back but when Murphy found the pressure by O’Donnell too hot to handle the ball broke to Stephens on the corner of the box but his first time effort shaved the outside of the post. Two minutes later O’Donnell was again involved as his driving run down the right setup a chance for Campbell but the striker couldn’t reach the ball at the back post. In the latter stages Stewart pulled off two superb saves despite rarely having been called on in the previous 50 minutes
Against a good side in a tight game small margins can make the difference but also highlight that there is still time needed to gel the new recruits. It was not a day for shrinking violets and for a second week Matchett could have claimed POTM but Murray shaded it with an outstanding display of effort and strong tackling from start to finish. Full time 0-2
Player of the Match: Matthew Murray
Panel: J Stewart, R Stephens, L Heggarty, C Matchett, F Penney, F McKay, M Murray, R Neeson, R Crooks, T Lyttle, C Loughran, L Campbell, R Robb, M O’Donnell, D McLaughlin, C McIlhatton
Kilmore Rec 0 Northend United 5 Saturday 2nd September 2023
The Macaulay Wray sponsored 07s opened the new season with an emphatic win over Kilmore Rec at The Billy Neill Stadium on Saturday.
The game started at a blistering pace with both sides having early chances though it was last season’s top goal scorer Crooks who found space in the box to slot home from close range on 6 minutes to put the blues in front. Kilmore Rec continued to get some joy from the long ball as the new look back three of Northend got acquainted. The game was tough and physical with both sides giving 100%. The introduction of Murray on the right had a positive impact with his pace and driving runs opening up the Kilmore defence. On 31 minutes Murray showed his man a clean pair of heels and crossed for Crooks who danced past two defenders and slotted home to give the Blues a 2-nil lead at the interval. Half time 0-2
The two-goal cushion gave Northend the chance to utilise the squad with Robb, Maka and Loughran being introduced. The game resumed with a different balance as the Blues found more rhythm to their play and grew in confidence with Loughran hitting the post with a thunderous shot and Crooks being denied by a fine same from McCleery. On 47 minutes Maka and Robb combined well, Robb found Loughran just outside and the box the big striker held off his man to fire home from 18 yards.
The Blues continued to press with Crooks, Robb Campbell going close. At the other end the Blues defence were starting to look the solid unit that was so consistent last season. On 47 minutes a mistake by McCleery in the Kilmore goal saw Loughran regain possession inside the box with his back to goal, a cheeky back heel from 10 yards saw the striker double his goal tally. In a brief spell around the hour mark Kilmore pushed for a consolation goal but were denied by two excellent saves from Stewart. With time almost up McKay played a through ball to Loughran on the left who squared to Lyttle who fired home his first competitive goal for the Blues.
This was a solid performance from a team who grew in confidence as the game progressed. There were a number of stand-out performers including excellent debuts for Heggarty, Murray and Loughran who grabbed a brace as did Crooks. Special mention to Maka who returned following an ankle injury that saw him miss 8 weeks at the end of last season. Man of the Match goes to Matchett who was immense at the centre of defence.
Player of the Match: Calum Matchett
Panel: J Stewart, P Stephens, L Heggarty, C Matchett, F Penney, F McKay, M O’Donnell, R Neeson, T Lyttle, D McLaughlin, R Crooks, L Campbell, O Maka, R Robb, M Murray, C Loughran