Cookstown and Dale draw in key relegation tie

Men’s EY Hockey League
Annadale 2 (M Allister, P McKibbin) Cookstown 2 (T Sloan, R Millar)

Cookstown made it seven points from their last nine available as they picked up a 2-2 draw at Annadale in this key battle to avoid the relegation spaces. The result of this back match means both side remain where they were with Cookstown in ninth but now just two points of Cork C of I having been eight away from safety a few weeks back.

Dale, meanwhile, are in tenth and need to get points from their run of home games against Glenanne, Banbridge and Lisnagarvey. The Lough Moss hosts started well, Robbie McGuire’s outstanding stickwork only foiled by goalkeeper Ian Hughes. Connor Roberts’ reverse stick effort was also capably dealt with by the Cookstown keeper.

Matthew Allister opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a strong shot from left circle for a 1-0 lead at quarter time. Cookstown got into the tie in the second quarter with Mark Crooks going close from their first attack and they equalised in the 19th minute when Timmy Sloan fired in an accurate shot for 1-1.

The match continued in a much more exciting vein than the previous week’s dour encounter in Coolnafranky. Cookstown’s clever penalty corner variation in the 25th minute went narrowly past Jonny Moore’s right hand post during a fine period for the Co Tyrone club.

On the break, Hughes was again called into action to turn Roberts’ reverse shot over the bar and then block an Allister effort.

Early in the second half, Simon Todd won two penalty corners for Cookstown but they proved fruitless and then Moore had to be alert to save a Cookstown snapshot above his head. Ryan Millar put the visitors ahead snapping up a smart rebound in the 41st minute.

Three minutes later, though, Peter McKibbin equalised for Annadale after some sustained pressure to make it 2-2.

It set up a tense final quarter. Moore saved well from Millar as both teams looked for the winner before two late penalty corners for Annadale broke down and, to the home side’s disappointment, Matthew Crookshanks diving effort flashed just wide.

Hughes then turned McGuire’s shot over the bar. Annadale then won a prolongation penalty corner but James Cox’s shot was saved by Hughes to keep it honours even. Cookstown meet Railway next Saturday in Dublin in another big tie.

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