Cookstown 7 Belfast Harlequins 1
AFTER their indoor adventures of the previous two weeks it was back to the bread and butter of the ultra competitive Ulster Premier League last Saturday for The Reds. They faced a confident Harlequins side who had put 6 goals past Mossley the previous week. Making his senior debut for Cookstown was keeper Michael Anderson who has signed from Banbridge. As well as Irish players Ian Sloan and Ian Hughes, Cookstown were also without Keith Black, Mark Crooks, Godfrey Irwin and Ryan Miller as a bout of sickness hit the camp.
The game was only 8 minutes old when Cookstown were sent reeling as a crash ball into their circle was rather fortutiously deflected past Anderson and into the net to put the Belfast side ahead. The Reds, undeterred by this set-back, kept their high tempo passing game going and it wasn’t long until the game was tied when Stephen Sloan scored after good work from Smyth had created the opening.
Cookstown won numerous penalty corners but their inability to convert from these without the presence of Ian Sloan must surely be a worry for the management team. One penalty corner conversion from 10 was the return, the goal coming from a Gareth Cuddy drag to put Cookstown ahead. Just on the half-time whistle, a through ball found Greg Allen just outside the visitors circle, and the forward went around 2 defenders and slotted home past the advancing keeper to make the scoreline a bit more respectable.
Into the second half and Anderson was called on to make a couple of good saves as Harlequins looked to reduce the deficit early. Cookstown steamed further ahead when Andy Barvour dived at the back post to get a touch to convert. Cuddy scored his second with a good shot through a crowded circle and claimed his hat-trick with a trademark roofer from the right edge of the D, reminiscent of his league winning goal away to Annadale 5 years ago.
Harlequins still kept the Reds defence busy but Rollins, Thompson, Best and Butler dealt comfortably with most things that came their way. Andy Barbour put in a great shift both going forward and defending and deserved his Millar Shearer & Black man of the match award. Raymond Miller was causing Harlequins all sorts of problems with his speed on the ball and he combined well with Allen to create chances.
Two more youngsters off the conveyor belt of talent joined the game, Daniel Crooks and Andy McWhirter. McWhirter made it a day to remember when he scored with a reverse roofer to notch up his first senior goal for the club. He could have had another when he was set up by Allen (not for the first time in the history of the club has an Allen set up a McWhirter) but unfortunately miscued when well placed.
With Keith Black out, the captain’s armband was given to 23 year old Greg Allen who marked his first game as senior captain with a good steady performance.
This Saturday the Reds have a must-win game when they host Lisnagarvey at Coolnafranky. If Garvey win it’s odds on that the league title will be resting for another year at Comber Road, however if Cookstown take the points the Reds will be right back in the mix.