Narrow defeat for seconds

Banbridge II 1 Cookstown II 0

FOR those hockey players out there a stark warning - if you hit your stick on the pitch in anger you are likely to be shown a yellow card.

Such was the case when youngster Andy Smyth thumped the turf after running the ball over the byline during the Twos’ match-up with highflying Bann.

Frustrated that he had let a chance slip, the promising Omagh man bashed his stick on the ground as he ran back into position only to find the home umpire brandishing his card and pointing towards the sidelines. His reason - unsporting behaviour and dangerous play.

With Cookstown down a man, the whole game turned as force of numbers allowed a Banbridge forward to get free at the back post and sweep the ball home from a bouncing cross.

Not that the Junior One champions-in-waiting had not chances to win it, but with Michael Anderson in such good form between the sticks the plucky Cookstown men had every right to feel aggrieved at the final whistle and that extremely dubious decision.

White-shirted Cookstown had come into the match as heavy underdogs with Bann able to call upon the services of talent such as Scott McCandless and Hugh McShane.

Nevertheless following an early period on the back foot, the Tyrone men worked their way back into the game and if anything had the better of the chances in the first half.

Twice Cookstown got on the end of brilliant Nelson and Wilson crosses and deflections by Morton and Allen went agonisingly close.

Tony Johnston has been a revelation at right back this year and he got his reward by being drafted into the midfield for this game in place of Andy Ferguson - he proved to be equally effective and crafted chance after chance in tandem with Stevie Allen.

Unlucky to go into the second period goalless, Cookstown had to soak up a bit of Bann pressure but quickly found their feet with Anderson in peerless form at the back.

The incident which changed the match occurred with fifteen minutes remaining and was made all the worse as the victim Smyth was getting ever closer to grabbing his third goal in his short Twos’ career. It was not to be and as Bann broke down the left, Cookstown struggled to cope with the numbers against them and a forward tucked the ball home at the back post.

Cookstown: Michael Anderson, Dan Crooks, Mark Wilson, Andy McWhirter, Ian Cheevers, Tony Johnston, Philip Morton (c), Richard Nelson, Stevie Allen, Graeme Black, Andy Smyth, Paul Watt and Gavin Butler

Many thanks to Stevie Smyth for umpiring the game