THE Reds went into this game knowing that the destiny of the league title was out of their hands, if Garvey beat Annadale then the Keightley Cup was staying at Comber Road for another year.
However, Cookstown had to beat Bann to put themselves into second spot. As usual games between us and Bann are always cagey affairs and this was to be the same. Cookstown started the better with Timmy Smyth combining well with Ian Sloan down the right side but the cross just evaded the inrushing Greg Allen.
The Reds kept their high tempo up but the final pass was missing as Bann struggled to get into the game. Word then came through that Annadale had taken the lead against Garvey. Andy Barbour now began to influence the game big style with his ingenuity and speed of thought as he drove his team mates on.
Eventually Cookstown took the lead when Ian Sloan beat keeper Appleton with a drag at a penalty corner. Instead of this being the catalyst for Cookstown to push on the Reds then went through a spell of being second best as Bann dominated for a period.
It was now 2-0 to Annadale at Lough Moss. Ian Hughes had to be alert more than once as Bann made inroads through Cookstown’s defence. With 3 minutes until the half time break dangerman Ross McCandless levelled matters when the scored with a trademark drag at a penalty corner and just on the whistle he had another chance but Hughes saved well.
The second half started at a frantic pace as both teams went for the win. Dale were now 3 up. Cookstown now upped their game as gaps appeared in the visitors defence.
Allen had a good chance from the right side of the circle but elected to pass inside and the chance was lost. Matthew Rollins and Paul Thompson were now overlapping down both flanks and Stephen Sloan was finding more space in midfield as Cookstown continued to look for the lead again. A piece of Allen magic won a penalty corner but Appleton made a great stick save from Sloan’s high drag.
At another penalty corner the Bann keeper denied Sloan again with a pad save low to this left. Word then came through that Garvey were now only 3-2 down. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, Gareth Cuddy. At another penalty corner, Cuddy’s initial drag was saved but he dived head first to sweep the rebound into the roof of the net. Another big goal in a big game.
Bann came forward now leaving them exposed at the back and Cookstown had numerous chances to kill off the game, but bad pass selection denied them as weary legs kicked in as last Wednesday’s game caught up with the team. From another Bann attack Stephen Sloan put in a great tackle and sent Mark Crooks away on a one on one with the keeper. As Crooks bore down on goal Appleton came out of the circle and fouled, penalty corner awarded and the keeper sent off with a yellow card. Ross McCandless put on the keepers helmet as Cookstown prepared to take the corner.
The final score from Lough Moss was now 4-2 to Annadale. Ian Sloan stepped up and executed a perfect drag to make the final score 3-1 to The Reds.
Once again the league title is back in the Reds hands but they face an ever improving Annadale side at Lough Moss this Wednesday (last night) 7.45pm before completing their league campaign next Saturday when they host already relegated North Down.