WITH two draws in their cup matches this season, and a rather fortuitous 1-0 win for Banks O Dee in their home meeting against United on the synthetic pitch at Spain Park, last weekend’s second league meeting at The Meadows had the makings of a close encounter - and so it turned out, with a solitary goal two minutes from time giving the visitors a 1-0 win.
Things might have been very different for United if they had managed to cash in on any of the chances they created as they dominated the first half, and even just after the interval when they again passed up the chances to take the lead. With no game since November 24, and their recent training having been severely curtailed, United’s lack of match fitness told in the second half as the game wore on, particularly with no lead to hold on to. The home defence managed to cope as the visitors began to dominate, but in the 88th minute one of the front men failed to close his opponent down, and he was able to pin-point his cross allowing Jack to head home the game’s only goal. With Callum Steer unavailable, the management team were able to coax former Culter and Sunnybank player Andy McIntosh out of retirement to take over in goals, and the keeper acquitted himself well, including a fine penalty save.
Following an even settling in period, Dee’s Winton was first to try his luck, but United’s stand in keeper McIntosh made a comfortable save. United responded a minute later with Fraser Tait feeding Darren Bailey whose inviting low cross unfortunately flew across the face of the goal just begging for a home touch. A 17th minute shot from Bailey shaved the top of Johnstone’s bar, with the keeper well beaten. United kept up the pressure and two minutes later a cross from Calum Annand found Bailey, whose effort came back off the post and after an almighty scramble was eventually cleared by the Dee defence. The visitors hit back, with a timely tackle from Steven Reid mopping up any threat. United were unable to force home any of the number of chances which came their way, before keeper Johnstone made a comfortable save from Ryan Stewart in the final action of the first half.
United had to make an early change after the break, with Jordan Morrice replacing the injured Darren Bailey. Ellon had a great chance to make an early breakthrough when Callum Dunbar moved clear, but he was unable to beat keeper Johnstone. Andy McIntosh dealt confidently with a Pilichos shot with United countering through Jordan Morrice, who released Dunbar but his cross found no takers. Another United chance saw a low volley from Annand fly straight at Johnstone then Fraser Tait shot over following more neat approach play.
United might have been punished in the 54th minute when they lost possession with Jack’s shot not far off target. The visitors had a great chance to grab the lead in the 75th minute and again United’s problems started from them losing possession. This time, Dee broke forward, and when their striker went down in the box the referee immediately pointed to the spot only for Andy McIntosh to make a fine save, diving to his left to keep out the penalty.
With United visibly tiring, the visitors began to see much more of the ball with seasoned campaigners Steven Rintoul and Ryan Petrie coming off the bench and starting to control more and more of the midfield action. Ellon replaced Ryan Stewart with Lenny Johnson for the closing stages. The United defence were coping well, but with two minutes to go the home side failed to close the ball out wide, with Jack meeting the cross to seal the points for Banks o Dee.
United must accept responsibility for the loss of more league points with their failure to punish their visitors when they had the chance, but at least they were able to get back into action in good conditions. Ellon face another stiff challenge on Saturday when campions Hermes are their visitors, KO 1.30pm.
Ellon United: McIntosh, Millsom, Johnston, Tait, Reid, Lawson, Annand, Whelan, Stewart (Johnson), Dunbar, Bailey (Morrice), Mathers, Lamberty, Bremner.