McMullan is on the mark Ballynahinch United 3 Crumlin United 2 JJB IRISH CUP 2ND ROUND

McMullan is on the mark Ballynahinch United 3 Crumlin United 2 JJB IRISH CUP 2ND ROUND

THIS was one of the most exciting cup ties ever at the Millbridge and despite the deteriorating weather as the heavy rain started to come in the large crowd remained to the bitter end.

Crumlin, from Division 1A of the Amateur League, were on the ascendancy early on with ex Linfield star Pat Wall their outstanding performer.

The home team were playing against a strong wind, but they enjoyed a good share of possession mainly due to their persistence in keeping the ball on the ground.

Teenage forwards Ian McMullan and Scott McKibbin were making a nuisance of themselves while Gareth Bingham was holding the ball up well and linking well with Ian Boal, Alan Patterson and James Kingscott in midfield.

Ballynahinch's best opportunity of the first half came when Scott McKibbin's header was brilliantly saved by the Crumlin keeper. Within minutes the visitors were ahead when they weaved their way through midfield with some quick fire passing before the ball was passed into the penalty area for a forward to swivel and score, despite the efforts of goal keeper Brian McMullan.

In the early stages of the second half Crumlin enjoyed a considerable amount of possession without really creating any scoring opportunities, but at the same time preventing the home side from getting back into the game.

On the hour mark Adam Herron was introduced to the left side of midfield and his forceful runs, along with a more attacking approach from Brashaw and Dickson, made a significant impact with a number of corners being won.

In the 65 minute a cross from Scott McKibbin was cleared to the edge of the Crumlin area and Ian Boal crashed a shot off the crossbar. The ball found its way out to Herron whose deflected shot fell into the path of Ian Boal who turned a defender and shot into the corner of the net for the equaliser.

United were on the ascendancy and moments later they were awarded a free kick on the left wing. Alan Dickson sent a deep cross into the penalty area and Alan Patterson managed to beat the advancing 'keeper to the ball and head home to put his side 2-1 up.

The game was in its dying moments when Crumlin managed to break free on their right wing and the cross was met at the back post for a forward to head home.

The game went into two periods of extra time. However neither team seemed able to break down the strong defences until the last few minutes of the second period when a clearance from the Crumlin penalty area was deflected into the path of Scott McKibbin. He exchanged passes with JJ Carlisle and outpaced his marker before crossing along the six yard box for Ian McMullan to shoot home. This was a killer blow for the visitors and shortly afterwards the referee blew the final whistle.

This was a great advertisement for the amateur game with both teams giving their all over the full period of the game which proved an enjoyable and exciting afternoon for the good sized crowd.

Many local clubs are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet with spiralling costs for referees - £50 plus expenses for Intermediate level - laundry, etc., and an increase in attendances would not only help the finances but would also greatly encourage the efforts of the players. On Saturday the crowd was very supportive and was certainly Ballynahinch United's 12th man.

This week United travel to play East Belfast in the first round of the Intermediate Cup.