WHILE Banbridge’s league campaign was already over before this game got underway this was a massie game for Cookstown, who needed to win to guarantee second spot.
As usual games between Cookstown and Bann are always cagey affairs and this was to be the same.
Cookstown started the better with Timmy Smyth combining well with Ian Sloan down the right side but the cross just evaded the inrushing Greg Allen.
The Reds kept their high tempo up but the final pass was missing as Bann struggled to get into the game.
Andy Barbour now began to influence the game big style with his ingenuity and speed of thought as he drove his team mates on.
Eventually Cookstown took the lead when Ian Sloan beat keeper Appleton with a drag at a penalty corner.
Instead of this being the catalyst for Cookstown to push on The Reds then went through a spell of being second best as Bann dominated for a period.
Ian Hughes had to be alert more than once as Bann made inroads through Cookstown’s defence.
With three minutes until the half time break dangerman Ross McCandless levelled matters when the scored with a trademark drag at a penalty corner and just on the whistle he had another chance but Hughes saved well.
The second half started at a frantic pace as both teams went for the win. Cookstown now upped their game as gaps appeared in the visitors defence.
Allen had a good chance from the right side of the circle but elected to pass inside and the chance was lost.
Matthew Rollins and Paul Thompson were now overlapping down both flanks and Stephen Sloan was finding more space in mid-field as Cookstown continued to look for the lead again.
A piece of Allen magic won a penalty corner but Appleton made a great stick save from Sloan’s high drag.
At another penalty corner the Bann keeper denied Sloan again with a pad save low to this left.
At another penalty corner, Cuddy’s initial drag was saved but he dived head first to sweep the rebound into the roof of the net. Another big goal in a big game.
Bann came forward now leaving them exposed at the back and Cookstown had numerous chances to kill off the game, but bad pass selection denied them as weary legs kicked in as last Wednesday’s game caught up with the team.
From another Bann attack Sloan put in a great tackle and sent Mark Crooks away on a one on one with the keeper.
As Crooks bore down on goal Appleton came out of the circle and fouled, penalty corner awarded and the keeper sent off with a yellow card. Ross McCandless put on the keepers helmet as Cookstown prepared to tale the corner.
Ian Sloan stepped up and executed a perfect drag to make the final score 3-1 to The Reds.