Belfast Telegraph

Paul Kirk is bowled over by Amateur League's success

NAFL 2 SAFA 1

By Martin Mawhinney

The Northern Amateur Football League battled to a 2-1 victory over the Scottish Amateur FA to seal a momentous first year in charge for manager Paul Kirk.

Early goals from Scott McMillan and William McBurney put the Amateur League in the driving seat and despite the Scots equalising through Gary Currie, they were unable to turn the game around.

"I really didn't know what to expect out there," Kirk confessed afterwards. "It wasn't a game for the purists, but a win is a win. We had worked on our set plays and ended up scoring from two of them.

"I thought a lot of our boys looked tired – it has been a long season and it has been a lot to ask of them, playing matches right up to this week.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed this whole experience, it is an honour to manage my country and it's a great day for amateur football in Northern Ireland."

The Scot were unlucky not to open the scoring in the third minute as an Alan Inglis overhead kick from Lance Pearce's free kick went wide of the mark.

In a whirlwind start the Amateur League took the lead after just five minutes, with Shankill United defender McMillan volleying home inside the box from a McBurney corner.

Two minutes later, the lead was doubled, with Ards Rangers man McBurney scoring, this time latching onto a dangerous Peter McCann free kick to evade a defender and smash high into the roof of the net from close range.

It was a dream start for the hosts, but the the SAFA did their best to haul themselves back into the game.

Kevin Fotheringham fired over the bar twice, first from a 25-yard free kick and then when under pressure from Gareth Ringland.

The NAFL thought they had put the game beyond doubt five minutes before half time McCann tapped-in a rebound after Ally Wilson's drive was saved, but it was ruled out for offside.

The SAFA got themselves back into the game 10 minutes after the break after Currie collected the ball from Ross Fletcher before shooting from 25 yards out and in the wet conditions the ball seemed to slip through the grasp of goalkeeper Allister Coburn.

The Killyleagh YC shot-stopper made amends in the 68th minute when we saved well with his feet in a one-on-one.

After the game, Scottish boss Bruce McNaught said: "It was a crazy first five minutes or so, but the main thing is it was a good show from two good teams and it was played in the right spirit."

NAFL: Coburn (McKenna 83 mins), Ringland (Patterson 88)mins, McBurney, McMillan, Moore, McCann, Graham, Harris, Newberry (Baker 63 mins), Wilson (McDermott 80 mins), McKervey (Clarke 71 mins).

SAFA: McGilvray (Nisbet 82 mins), Peebles, Pearce, McLeod, Gaitens, Bradley, McClure (Currie 45 mins), McDevitt (Dickson 75 mins), Inglis, Fletcher (McCormack 79 mins), Fotheringham. Sub not used: Donaldson.

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