Belfast United put recent cup and league disappointments behind them to earn a point in an exhilarating encounter in their Belfast and District Division 1 clash at the Grove on Saturday.
In an end to end game, United looked to have stolen the points before a spirited St Paul’s snatched an equaliser only minutes from time. The point leaves the Sky Blues eighth in the table, with a couple of games in hand, boasting seven points from five games.
Playing against the wind in the first half, the United defence held firm despite a barrage of St Paul’s attacks with the recently married (not to each other) centre back pairing of Micky Stuart and Kevin Doran dealing with everything thrown at them.
St Paul’s played some excellent football at times, using the wings well and giving United full backs Phil McLaughlin and Ciaran Ashley a busy day.
The four man defence well protected by a holding midfield partnership of the returning Paul Gallen and durable club captain Ciaran McCallan.
Whilst first half opportunities were limited, United were unlucky not to take the lead just before the break when what looked a perfectly good Mark McLaughlin goal was ruled out for offside, leaving the game scoreless at half-time.
The Sky Blues made the perfect start to the second half when Denis Rogan snuck in at the back post to finish well from a Niall Mahon cross.
United almost doubled their lead shortly after when the ball was headed wide from a Rogan corner.
St Paul’s equalised midway through the second half, with a well worked goal down the left hand side, cooled finished by the St Paul’s centre forward.
United then bounced back well to take the lead thanks to a superb goal from Gerard Keenan.
Taking the ball from well inside his own half, and breaking down the right, Keenan stole into the box and finished well, beating the St Paul’s keeper at his near post.
As St Paul’s pushed for the equaliser, they found United Keeper Ciaran Murtagh in fine form, pulling off two point blank saves from 12 yard out to keep the Beechmount men at bay.
However despite the fine rear-guard action, a St Paul’s equaliser came with only minutes remaining. An arching free kick, caught in the wind, looped over Murtagh into the top corner of the net.
As the final whistle blew, both teams felt hard done by, but a draw was probably a fair result.
Despite a number of excellent performances across the team, including excellent displays from Keenan and Gallen and a solid performance by stand in right back Ciaran Ashley, the man of the match award goes to goalscorer Rogan.
The Stewartstown man worked tirelessly down the both flanks, covering every blade of grass on the pitch and knicking the all-important first goal.
Rogan celebrated his man of the match performance by heading to see Katy Perry at the Odyssey on Monday night.
Rumours that he went alone remain unconfirmed, but we are all sure he had a great time regardless!
Belfast United Team: C Murtagh, C Ashley, M Stuart, K Doran, P McLaughlin,
D Rogan, P Gallen, C McCallan, G Keenan, N Mahon, M McLaughlin. Subs: P McCormack, B O’Neill, G Holbrook, G Brown,
G McStravick, N Kennedy