Kilkeel go top with convincing win

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Kilkeel go top with convincing win thumbnailPeter Gordon on the ball for Kilkeel. Photograph John Bird.

ON a chilly Friday night, Kilkeel hosted Cookstown in a meeting of the top two in the Premier League with top spot up for grabs for the winner.

Kilkeel Men's 1s ...4
Cookstown Men's 1s ...1

Both sides were looking to find their way into the game, Luke Russell with a bursting run down the right-hand side for the home side in the only highlight of a quiet opening five minutes.

Kilkeel had added the high press to their game this season and they once again pressed Cookstown high up the pitch and won the ball back on several occasions.

The game was going at a reasonably steady pace but with 10 minutes gone the first penalty corner of the game was won by David Finlay. Gareth Russell stepped up and drag flicked goalwards but it was deflected wide.

The home side was looking the most likely to score and they soon got another chance through their second penalty corner.

Once again Gareth Russell drag flicked it towards the goal, but the Cookstown 'keeper saved the initial effort and the rebound from Jonathan Aiken, however it was third time lucky as Gary Niblock picked up the loose ball to score from close range and make it 1-0.

Cookstown responded immediately to going a goal down and swiftly moved forward down the left hand side working Kilkeel 'keeper Sam Morris who saved well to prevent a quick fire response.

The visitors were really beginning to come to life in the game and they maybe should of equalised as their right winger evaded several challenges before pulling the ball back to an unmarked attacker who saw his weak effort from close range go off target.

Kilkeel began to calm the game down a little by keeping the ball well through the midfield of Peter Gordon, Richard Fraser and Edward Agnew.

It was proving to be a very tight game as Cookstown once again came forward winning another penalty corner.

The initial shot and rebound were well saved by Sam Morris as he continued to frustrate the visitors efforts to find an equaliser.

Both sides were fighting for territory with a real battle unfolding all over the pitch and both sides tackling strong.

Cookstown were looking the more dangerous of the two as they once again won another penalty corner, however Sam Morris saved well yet again to keep the visitors at bay.

It was proving to be an end to end game with both sides pushing forward, but neither 'keeper was troubled with both sets of defenders tackling well to prevent efforts on goal.

As the first half came to an end the game became very quiet with some quick passing across the pitch being the only highlight as the half ended with Kilkeel leading 1-0.

Cookstown came out of the blocks fast as they started the second half with a high press, looking to push Kilkeel into mistakes high up the pitch.

The away side was making the early running in the second half as they looked to get an early equaliser but the defence of Neil Stevenson, Mark Stevenson, Gary Niblock and David Tremlett tackled well to break up numerous attacks.

Cookstown were looking the most likely to score with the home side struggling to create any notable chances and out of nowhere the visitors found themselves level as a cross was fired into the area from the right and a slight deflection sent the ball past Sam Morris to make it 1-1.

Kilkeel were looking nervous, giving the ball away in bad positions and if it wasn't for the visitors lack of finishing they could have found themselves behind in the game.

The wingers of the home side had been kept relatively quiet for the majority of the game so far until William Annett went on a trademark run down the left hand side evading numerous challenges, before squaring to Gareth Russell who made no mistake from close range to make it 2-1.

It was most definitely against the run of play but that didn't bother the home side at all and they went immediately back on the attack as Edward Agnew burst forward before playing in John Finlay who kept his composure to evade the 'keeper's efforts to put him off and he slotted home powerfully to make it 3-1.

This quick fire double had turned the game on its head and put the home side well in control of the game with Cookstown lacking the cutting edge in the final third they needed to get themselves back into the game.

The away side was beginning to pile the pressure back on Kilkeel, but they couldn't find a way through and as a result the home side was looking dangerous on the counter with the pace of Luke Russell, David Finlay and Ryan Cunningham upfront.

Cookstown finally broke through the Kilkeel defence but once again Sam Morris was out quicker to smother the ball and clear well under pressure to continue the frustration for the visitors.

The tackling from the home side was exceptional with every attack being thwarted as they battled on to maintain their two-goal advantage.

Cookstown had won numerous penalty corners throughout the game and they won two more in a matter of minutes, however like all of the other ones they had won, Sam Morris in the Kilkeel goal saved well on both occasions.

As the game drew to a close on the final five minutes, the emphasis was on the Kilkeel defence to clear the ball away at the first opportunity.

However they moved forward down the right hand side with some pin-point accurate passing that you would find in Barcelona, which just left the Cookstown players for dead and it culminated in the ball finding its way to Luke Russell in the area and he scored from close range to make it game, set and match for the hosts at 4-1 with only minutes to go.

It was undoubtedly one the contenders for goal of the season with the play being of the highest level and it was a fantastic way to end a fantastic night for home side as they went top of the Ulster Premier League with a 4-1 victory.

Kilkeel were just better in every aspect of the game and they thoroughly deserved the victory with some ruthless finishing that sees them sitting top of the pile now and set up a tense finish to the season.

The firsts will continue their quest for the title as they face a tricky trip away to Portadown next Saturday looking to keep the pressure on those around them.



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