CHAMPIONS Cookstown were left to rue a number of missed chances as they failed to convert first half dominiance against Instonians into goals.
This was a very entertaining game of hockey played by two teams who both wanted the win badly. Cookstown settled quicker and played their best hockey to date throughout the entire first half.
With five minutes played, a great ball from Greg Allen found Ewan Butler wide on the right and his cross was reverse-deflected by Jon Ames goalward only for the home keeper to save. Six minutes later and the keeper saved again, this time from a Butler shot.
Paul Thompson then made a brilliant run before finding Greg Allen who won Cookstown’s first penalty corner which in turn was converted by Butler to put Cookstown 1-0 up.
The Reds were playing some great hockey and with quick slick passing were totally bossing things - they just needed that second goal to cement their superiority.
Midway through the half Stephen Sloan won the Reds’ second penalty corner but Butler’s effort was saved. Simon Todd had a glorious chance to double the lead. He beat the last defender and drew the ball onto his reverse with only the keeper to beat, but just as he got his shot away a last gasp diving tackle deflected the ball wide.
Cookstown were almost punished when they lost the ball in midfield and with a lot of players committed forward it took a great tackle from David Best to clear the danger. Keith Black, Godfrey Irwin and Matthew Rollins were all seeing plenty of the ball as Cookstown continued to dominate. With six minutes left until half time, the home side won their first penalty corner but Ian Hughes easily dealt with Gleghorne’s effort and Cookstown launched a counter attack which ended with Gareth Cuddy’s cross just evading the in-rushing Stuart Smyth.
Into the last minute of the half and again Hughes saved an Inst penalty corner effort. Play was quickly transferred to the other end where Allen won Cookstown’s third corner on the whistle. Unfortunately the corner variation went wide and the half ended with the Reds only one goal up despite their domination of the half.
The second period began in the same fashion as the first and a great reverse cross from Matthew Rollins caused mayhem in the Inst defence before being cleared.
The home side were twice reduced to 10 men as Cookstown looked to take advantage. The Reds left Allen high in the opposition circle and they attempted to stretch Inst and when Allen was eventually found his reverse snapshot just shaved the post with the keeper beaten. With 15 minutes left a rare attack from Inst won their third penalty corner which Robinson converted although Butler got something on the effort.
Cookstown immediately set about their task of winning this game and a good reverse effort from Ryan Millar was well saved. A defensive error then let Stuart Smyth in and his reverse just went wide with the keeper totally wrong-footed. With seven minutes remaining Inst should have won the game when a cross zipped across the face of Cookstown’s goal and was touched wide by one of two diving forwards.
In the end both teams could have won this game but Cookstown will feel the most aggrieved as the game should have been won by half-time.
The Reds now take a break from the Premiership as they enter the Irish Indoor tournament this weekend. They play at Gormanstown College next saturday and then at Queen’s University the following day.
They face the cream of indoor hockey in reigning champions Three Rock Rovers as well as Glenanne and Clontarf. The first two teams in the group will go on to play in the finals in the new year.