COOKSTOWN made the long trip to Kilkeel and returned with a rather fortuitous win.
The game was played on a pitch where all players had difficulty keeping their footing and at times it actually was dangerous to play on it. It meant that defenders could not put everything into tackles and flowing hockey from any team just didn’t happen - all due to the pitch.
The Reds had the perfect start when Greg Allen scored from their first penalty corner after only two minutes. This goal settled Cookstown and all the hockey was condensed in the Kilkeel half as Cookstown looked to take advantage of their superiority by increasing their lead.
Stuart Smyth had two gilt edged chances to score but shot wide on both occasions. A quickly taken free from Andy Barbour found Paul Thompson and his attempt was smothered at close range by the home keeper. The visiting support were hoping that these missed chances would not come back to bite Cookstown later in the game. Eventually the home side came into the game more as Cookstown gave them more time and space to control the ball and find their passes. A innocuous ball into The Reds circle caused mayhem as defenders fluffed their chances to clearand Willie Annett struck to level matters.
Perhaps this set back was what Cookstown needed as they immediately got a grip on the game again. A through ball from Matthew Rollins was dummied by Allen, this deceived the keeper, and Smyth was left with the easy task of a tap into an open goal to leave the half-time score 1-2 in favour of Cookstown.
The second half started and immediately the Reds defence went walkabout as a lone forward was left with a 1 on 1 against keeper Hughes. The custodian stayed on his feet for as long as possible and forced the forward wide and eventually made a good save. Again Cookstown upped the tempo and efforts from Barbour and Allen were saved by the home keeper. The Reds increased their lead when Barbour netted from a penalty corner. Johnny Ames robbed the home left back and immediately sent Barbour clear and he made inroads to the circle where his cross gound Allen to score with a slap shot.
The Reds were winning this game comfortably but then pressed the self destruct button as they conceeded ground to Kilkeel. Keith Black took a penalty corner effort off the line as Kilkeel threw men forward. Another defensive howler gave Annett another chance which he buried to reduce the defecit. Straight from the restart and Cookstown gave the ball away leaving Hughes with no chance as 3 forwards bore down on him to bring Kilkeel right back into the game. With a minute left in the game Kilkeel were awarded a penalty corner but Hughes saved well to record the victory for Cookstown.
In a game that Cookstown had total control off they were lucky to come home with the win. This victory means that Cookstown, along with Annadale, have qualified for the Kirk Cup semi-finals to be played on Sun 7th Oct. The Reds travel to Annadale this saturday for the final group game to decide first and second place.
Cookstown: Ian Hughes, Keith Black, Godfrey Irwin, David Best, Matty Rollins, Andy McWhirter, Ewan Butler, Stephen Sloan. Andy Barbour, Jon Ames, Ryan Millar, Greg Allen (C), Stuart Smyth and Gareth Cuddy