A MUCH improved performance from last week was needed from the Under 12s if they were to progress in the Shield Quarter Final - and they did play much better but it wasn’t enough to overcome their Mid-Ulster opponents.
The locals weathered early pressure and defended well for the first ten minutes but they conceeded their first goal on 15 minutes after an unfortunate defensive mix-up.
The Juniors didn’t drop their heads and began to get a grip on proceedings with captain Jake Corbett at the heart of most good things they done as he tackled hard for the cause covering every blade of grass and finding a red shirt with some fine passes.
The back four of Ross Shields, Cameron Sands, Jack Arlow and David Magill all put in impressive displays with last ditch stops to keep the score at 1-0.
Striker Dozie Ajeh had a couple of chances but unfortunately the keeper denied him on both occasions.
Town’s keeper Michael McGrath proved to be a safe pair of hands as he comanded his area with authority and pulled off a great save in the last minute of the half to keep a goal in it, and he was called into action again early in the second half as he pulled off another fantastic stop down to his right as Cookstown came at the Juniors.
Town needed their midfielders to step up to the plate and fight for every ball as the game became more of an even contest. Lewis McBurney and Jordan Kelsey began to see more ball on the wings as they ran at the Cookstown defence and with Shea Winters and Ben Johnston fighting for possession in a crowded midfield the home side looked a better outfit.
However, the visitors began to pile on more pressure and the Juniors defence was again made to work hard - in particular Cameron Sands and Jack Arlow who both put in great efforts tracking back and giving protection to their keeper.
50 minutes in Dozie Ajeh nearly got on the scoresheet as he raced through but again he was denied by the keeper.
Town were delt a cruel blow when Cookstown got their second goal five minutes from time when a speculative cross come shot floated over the keeper’s head and they added a third in the dying seconds to seal their 3-0 victory.
This was definetely a better showing from the Under 12s - who played some neat stuff at times but it’s back to the league for their next outting.
Man of the match was divided between Cameron Sands and Ross Shields who both showed great spirit and determination throughout.
The club would like to thank Naomi McGrath who provided much needed hot tea and coffee for the local supporters on a cold November morning at Havelock.