Cookstown travelled to Havelock Park last Saturday to take on champions Banbridge in what turned out to be a very good game of hockey with both sides close to full strength.
It was Banbridge who started the game better and were a goal to the good inside five minutes from Irish international Stephen Dowds, his powerful drag flick was neatly placed between Hughes in goals and Rollins on the right hand post.
Five minutes later Cookstown were 2-0 down, Dowds again a threat on break and he found an unmarked Simon Magowan at the back post to tap in his reverse stick cross.
Cookstown then started to dominate the half and it was no surprise that they got the next goal. McWhirter found Barbour in space in midfield he turned McShane and found Smyth in the right channel. Crooks expertly deflected Smyth’s pinpoint reverse cross past Lennox from 14 yards.
Stephen Sloan was unfortunate not to do the same six minutes later with his deflected effort just missing Lennox’s near post.
On the stroke of half time Cookstown forced their only penalty corner of the game, Allens initial effort was deflected by a diving Moffett, the deflected ball was almost steered home by Cuddy but Lennox was able to put it past the post.
In the 47th minute Banbridge gained a two goal cushion when Irish U21 international Owen Magee scored an excellent diving open sided shot to beat Hughes at the far post. The goal of the game from Magee who was returning from a injury.
Cuddy and Butler had opportunities to reduce the deficit but they failed to hit the target. In the 60th minute Banbridge scored the final goal of the game when Dowds scored a corner that was a replica of his first of the day.
Cookstown: Hughes, Rollins, Miller, Cuddy, Thompson, Butler, Todd, Barbour, Sloan, Crooks, Best, Ames (c), McWhirter, Allen, Smyth and Black
Coach Michael Haycock commented, “When we review the stats of the game it is obvious were we need to improve. We had 27 circle entries compared to Banbridge’s 25, but they were able to create more goal scoring opportunities than we were.
“We must get better as a squad offensively to create better chances, while also being more disciplined in our team defence. The guys have been working hard in training and we are confident that we will see the benefits.
“Our fitness is good and some of the younger members are coming into very good form. I thought Paul Thompson and Andrew McWhirter both had very good games at the weekend.
“We are at full strength now with good competition for pitch time. We have four games left and we are targeting points in each of those encounters to try and finish third.
“We won the league two years ago with 39 points and that is a realistic tally for this year and would set us up nicely for the start of the IHL.”