Football: Cookstown RBL relegated after Mallusk defeat

Cookstown Olympic and Cookstown RBL battle for the ball in midfield during Saturady's local derby clash at Beechway.INMM0415-390

Cookstown Olympic and Cookstown RBL battle for the ball in midfield during Saturady's local derby clash at Beechway.INMM0415-390

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Mallusk Athletic 4-1 Cookstown RBL

A 4-1 defeat away to Mallusk Athletic saw Cookstown Royal British Legion relegated from the Ballymena and Provincial League Junior Division One.

It was always going to be a tough season for RBL, having lost almost their entire squad at the end of the previous campaign.

But Derek McPartland can also be justified in feeling his team has not had the rub of the green all season. And it was no different when his threadbare squad travelled to Carrickfergus last Saturday, with all the home side’s goals bar the last coming in controversial circumstances.

Indeed it was the visitors who made the early running and deservedly took the lead on 15 minutes. Jay Jeffers flicked a long throw-in into the path of Fulton Ross who clipped the ball goalwards. The keeper somehow pushed it on to the post but Gary Smyton was on hand to slot home the rebound.

The lead lasted approximately two minutes. The referee awarded a highly dubious free-kick 25 yards from goal and Michael Frew blasted and unstoppable shot past Andy Graham.

The Legion looked to regain their lead and Ross McKenzie had two long range efforts in five minute that the home keeper managed to claw out for corners.

It was Valentine’s Day, and Mallusk certainly got lucky for their second goal. Phil Brown broke down the left wing and his sliced cross looped over Graham into the RBL goal.

To make matters worse David Suitor, just back from a broken nose, took a knock to the same area and was forced to go off, leaving RBL to play the remainder of the half with 10 men.

That said, the Legion almost equalised with the last kick of the half when a Ross effort from distance clipped the bar.

With Suitor unable to continue and RBL lacking personnel, McPartland himself came on for the second half to play alongside Jeffers.

The heavy, energy sapping pitch was beginning to affect both teams, but Athletic gradually began to dominate in the midfield. However, the third goal, when it arrived, came courtesy of a dubious penalty. Philip McGarvey appeared to win the ball cleanly against the small centre forward put the referee pointed to the spot, with Paul Walker coolly finishing.

The away side continued to fight for the last 20 minutes, but Athletic were now well in charge. Frew rounded off the scoring in the 90th minute with a magnificent solo effort, running from the centre circle, in the process beating three or four players, and showing great composure to apply the finish.