Football: Vital victory for Cookstown RBL in Mid-Ulster derby

Cookstown RBL and Desertmartin Swifts battle for the ball in the middle of the park during Saturday's league encounter at MUSA.INMM4114-375
Cookstown RBL and Desertmartin Swifts battle for the ball in the middle of the park during Saturday's league encounter at MUSA.INMM4114-375
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Cookstown RBL 2-1 Desertmartin Swifts -

A last-gasp James McParland goal gave Cookstown RBL a vital 2-1 victory over Desertmartin Swifts in the Ballymena and Provincial League.

All the goals at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena came in frenetic last 15 minutes, with both sides also hitting the woodwork.

Cookstown RBL's James McPartland on the break durinh Saturday's league clash with Desertmartin Swifts at MUSA.INMM4114-376

Cookstown RBL's James McPartland on the break durinh Saturday's league clash with Desertmartin Swifts at MUSA.INMM4114-376

Having succumbed to Antrim Rovers the previous week, Derek McPartland got the reaction he was looking for from his players with a battling performance and a result that lifts RBL off the bottom of Junior Division One.

Both sides carved out a number of decent opportunities in the first half, with the Swifts perhaps edging it in terms of clear-cut chances.

However, Raymond Greer, drafted into goals after RBL’s first choice keeper was injured in the warm up, was equal to anything the away team threw at him.

The RBL defence of Trevor Ferguson, Les Smith, David Suitor and Gareth Hutton held a good solid back line, time after time catching the Desertmartin forwards offside.

In attack, Jeff Lamont linked well with Jamie O’Neil and McPartland, with O’Neil coming close to scoring when he was put through one on one with the Swifts goalkeeper.

Somehow the half-time whistle came with neither team finding the net. RBL, however, seemed to step up a gear in the second half.

Playing with a strong tailwind, Greer was a able to launch his kickouts deep into the Swifts half which caused no end of problems for the away defence.

O’Neil came close with a couple of sweetly struck freekicks from distance before McPartland created a gilt-edged chance for himself, spinning away from his marker in the box and firing goalwards only to be denied by a brilliant save from Paul Leacock.

However, from the resultant corner RBL took the lead. A Swift’s defender initially cleared the danger, but the ball was won back by Hutton who took a touch and from 30 yards unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

A few minutes later RBL almost doubled their lead when some neat interplay involving Lamont and O’Neil set up Philly McGarvey whose curing shot came back off Leacock’s righthand post.

After getting their noses in front, the home side were punished for failing to deal with a corner, David McFadden prodding the ball home from amidst a melee in the Cookstown six yard box.

The game seemed to be heading for a draw until RBL snatched it at the death. A drilled O’Neil corner was headed back across goal by McGarvey and McPartland reacted quickest to turn the ball past Leacock.

There was still time for the Swifts to fashion one more chance, but with the goal gaping the forward somehow hit the post when it looked easier to score.