The Reds travelled to Belfast missing a strong core of players and left on the end of a 3-1 defeat after a disappointing display.
With Ewan Butler attending a wedding, Stuart Smyth is still serving a 4 match ban, Stephen Sloan is still injured, Andy Barbour was getting 70 minutes of hockey under his belt by playing for the seconds, and Greg Allen is still playing out in Australia.
Theses facts however do not take away the inept performance that Cookstown put in. For large periods of this game they seemed void of ideas. their basics were abysmal and their attack was toothless.
Instonians raced out of the blocks and within the first five minutes Cookstown could have been 2 down- Hughes making a great save and the post coming to his rescue on the other occasion. Eventually Cookstown settled and made a number of circle penetrations which in turn resulted in four penalty corners being awarded.
Unfortunately the Inst keeper was not even called into action as all attempts went wide of the goal. The importance of a good penalty corner routine was highlighted when Inst opened the scoring from their second attempt- Hughes beaten on his left side. The Reds probably had the majority of possession throughout the first half and were unlucky to go into the interval one goal down.
What a different story in the second half with the home keeper a virtual spectator for the remainder of the game. Cookstown were having difficulty finding each other and when they did the basic ball control was missing.
Ames, playing at pivot, was doing shuttles in midfield in an attempt to get Cookstown further up field but the defence were having trouble finding him.
Inst increased their lead when a goal bound effort looped over Hughes, rebounded off the crossbar and was tapped home by one of three Inst forwards who were all following up.
A few minutes later and the game was out of Cookstown’s reach. Inst attacked quickly down The Reds left side and a series of fluid passes opened up the defence for Mac Neice to beat Hughes from close range.
Just on the full time whistle a ball out of defence found Rooney wide left and his pass into the circle was expertly deflected into the net by the diving Andy Smyth to register Cookstown’s only goal.
This is a game that Cookstown will want to forget quickly. They have the ideal opportunity to get it out of their system when they continue their Kirk Cup campaign with a home game tonight, Wednesday, at Steelweld Park with Kilkeel being the visitors.
Team: Hughes, McWhirter, Rollins, Thompson, Black, Todd, Ames, Miller, Crooks, Cuddy; Rooney, Miller, Smyth