Friday 19 October 2018 08:51:36 PM

Ballynahinch Utd Scrape Past Downpatrick on Penalties
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Northern Amateur League –  Border Cup Round 1

Ballynahinch United 4 v Downpatrick FC 4 [after extra time]

[Downpatrick won 8 – 6 on penalties]

The eagerly anticipated Border Cup tie between United and near neighbours Downpatrick took place last Tuesday night 21st August at Millbridge and what a rip roaring affair it was providing the large crowd with ‘edge of the seat’ entertainment throughout writes Gilbert Cromie.

The opening exchanges were fairly even with both teams committed to attack and both featuring speedy wing men in an effort to stretch the respective defences.

Ballynahinch should have taken the lead after 20 minutes when David Kelly surged through the centre of the pitch from an Alan Dickson pass which caught out the visitors defence however as he drew the keeper and passed to team mate Aaron Cheevers who was deemed to be in an offside position.

This let off for Downpatrick did not deter their attacking ambitions and on the half hour mark following a prolonged period of play on the left wing the ball was centred and was run through unopposed to score past Brian McMullan.

United pressed for an equaliser with JJ Carlisle putting Aaron Cheevers in only to see his shot well saved by the Downpatrick keeper however on 35 minutes they drew level following a free kick. Johnny Hunter’s effort although cleared was sent back into the penalty area where three United players were standing and all being played onside. The alert Scot McKibbin pounced on the loose ball to cross to Ian McMullan who managed to scramble the ball into the net.

In the second half Downpatrick dominated for at least twenty five minutes keeping United hemmed into their own half and it was no surprise when they took the lead from a corner after 55 minutes when the ball was slotted home after a prolonged scramble around the penalty area.

On the hour mark it was 3 – 1 when a free kick into the heart of the United defence saw Hayes’s defensive header rebounded back onto the edge of the six yard area to be forced home.

In truth many in the home side thought it was curtains for their team however the introduction of substitutes Stuart McMullan, making his first competitive appearance of the season, and Craig Bowman put a spark into United and they became more of an attacking force again.

In the 80th minute Craig Bowman latched onto a pass from Cheevers to steer the ball into the Downpatrick net. It was now very much a case of game on with United laying siege to the visitor’s goal with defenders Davy Boal and Ross Hayes spending a fair bit of their time around the opposition’s penalty spot and Scott Brashaw orchestrating their play through the centre of midfield. The equaliser came from a penalty in the 85th minute when the ever alert Ian McMullan nipped in to steal the ball from a defender as he was about to clear his lines leaving the young forward upended from the follow through. Johnny Hunter scored from the spot kick and soon the game was into two periods of extra time.

United immediately picked up from where they left off and were 4 – 3 ahead early in the first period of extra time when a right wing surge from Craig Bowman resulted in his cross being diverted into his own net by a defender desperately trying to clear the danger.

Downpatrick pressed hard for an equaliser but United’s defence was looking solid and it really did look as if they had weathered the storm however with the minutes ticking away they were awarded a penalty. United keeper Brian McMullan had to race of his line to intercept a through ball however in doing so he was adjudged to have fouled an attacker. The resulting penalty kick was dispatched into the net and within seconds it was on to the dreaded penalties.

The penalty shoot out was every bit as exciting with Downpatrick scoring their first attempt while United’s David Kelly had his spot kick superbly saved. Downpatrick’s next attempt also found the back of the net while Scott McKibbin found the net with his kick to register United’s first score. Brian McMullan brought United back into the game when he saved the third Downpatrick kick to make it 2 – 1 and Craig Bowman levelled things up with his effort. Downpatrick went ahead 3 – 2 and when Johnny Hunter had his effort saved Downpatrick’s destiny was in their own hands and their kicker made no mistakes drilling his shot high past the despairing dive of McMullan and high into the net.