A LACKLUSTRE Cookstown lost out to a motivated and ruthless Banbridge at Coolnafranky on Saturday.
The Reds have now dropped five points after only four league games and will definitely have to improve if they want to retain their Premiership crown.
The game was end to end early on with both sides very pacy, especially in attack.
Bann had the first opportunity but Magowan’s reverse effort went over the bar. A McCandless run ended with Bann’s first penalty corner but this was well defended by the Reds and a lightning counter attack resulted in Cookstown’s own corner, however, this also came to nothing.
Bann then began to boss the game as Cookstown struggled to string passes together. From their second penalty corner Bann took the lead when Dowds beat Hughes with a low drag.
Just before the half time break Cookstown should have equalised. A three-on-one break saw Andy Barbour round Lennox but the midfielder couldn’t find the net.
Into the second half and Cookstown began to get the upper hand as they put the visitors under a sustained spell of pressure. However, despite winning three penalty corners in quick succession, they were still finding Bann a hard nut to crack. In yet another attack Smyth cracked a reverse over the bar when there were men over waiting for a pass.
With 16 minutes left it looked to be curtains for Cookstown. A through ball into the Reds’ circle was met by Ward but he was up-ended by Hughes leaving the umpire no option but to award a stroke. The Tyrone men were thrown a lifeline when McCandless sent his effort well wide.
Encouraged by this let-off, Cookstown again had a good spell of pressure. They eventually equalised when Greg Allen scored with a thunderous reverse volley after being cleverly set up by Paul Thompson.
Just when their supporters wanted Cookstown to keep the same intensity and go on and win the game they let the opportunity pass them by. From that point on Cookstown did not have a meaningfull attack.
From a side line ball Magowan was allowed to run into Cookstown’s circle where his cross was controlled and despatched into the net by Moffett with nine minutes left.
Another McCandless run resulted in another penalty corner for Bann and Dowds again beat Hughes with a drag to leave the final score 1-3 to Bann.
A bad result for the Reds, however injuries during the game to Keith Black, Andy Barbour and Jon Ames definitely limited the coaches’ options.
Hopefully everyone with be fit for this Saturday’s Irish Senior Cup tie in Cork against Harlequins. The winners of this game with be at home the next week to the winners of the Fingal/Banbridge game.