Annadale 1 Cookstown 2
The Reds topped their Kirk Cup qualifying group after a super 2-1 away win and will now face Banbridge in next Sunday’s semi-final at Coolnafranky.
Cookstown started well and a great run down the left side by Keith Black resulted in keeper Johnny Moore saving his side in the early stages.
Annadale had set up with a blanket defence and dangerman Fraser Mills up front on his own, happy to rely on any break-aways. The Reds were finding it tough to penetrate the massed Annadale defence and at times the game wasn’t too pretty to watch.
Eventually, mid-way through the first half, the defence was breached - all down to a defensive mistake. A bad clearance was intercepted by Simon Todd whose effort was saved, however the ball fell kindly to Andy Barbour, who scored with a roofer.
Annadale now resorted to a two man forward line and pushed a couple of midfielders higher in order to bring themselves back to level terms. An aerial ball over the top was controlled by speed-merchant Mills but Hughes was alert to the danger and saved well.
The home side set-up now suited the Reds as their fast passing game came to the fore and more chances were created. A good passing move involving Stephen Sloan and Matthew Rollins resulted in the ball falling to Greg Allen who uncharacteristically failed to hit the target. Just before the halftime break Gareth Cuddy’s penalty corner effort was saved by Moore.
Into the second half and Cookstown almost doubled their lead but again Moore came to his side’s rescue, saving from Stuart Smyth.
Annadale were much more fluent throughout the second half and began to cause Cookstown problems. A crash ball into the Reds circle was just deflected wide by a diving Dale forward. Cookstown won a free in midfield and Allen ran onto the ball taking the auto-pass. He exchanged a couple of slick passes with Ryan Millar working their way forward. From wide left of the circle Millar hit a good low reverse cross to the back post where Simon Todd scored Cookstown’s second to put a bit of breathing space between the teams.
Dale now began to push more men forward and almost went further behind when Millar almost got the final touch to Allen’s pass. The game now began to get ill-tempered as both teams questioned the umpires decisions. Annadale, at one stage had two players off, but Cookstown couldn’t take advantage.
Annadale reduced the defecit when a forward entered from the right side of the circle to strike a reverse effort which bounced over Hughes and into the net. During the build-up a tackle from David Best seemed to put the ball onto the forward’s feet and Keith Black was yellow-carded for asking the umpire if he “wanted an appointment set up with his brother Graeme, who is an optometrist”.
Annadale could now sense that there may still be something in the game and Hughes was called on a couple of times to keep the lead intact.
The Reds got over this difficult period and before the final whistle a penalty corner effort from Barbour was ruled out for being too high. As already stated this win sees Cookstown complete the group games unbeaten.
Cookstown: Ian Hughes, Keith Black, Godfrey Irwin, David Best, Matty Rollins, Andy McWhirter, Paul Thompson, Stephen Sloan, Simon Todd, Andy Barbour, Ryan Millar, Gareth Cuddy, Stuart Smyth, Greg Allen (c), Ewan Butler and Jon Ames