Bangor Seconds earned a hard fought point in an entertaining 3-3 draw away to Cookstown on Saturday.
On a scorching hot day the Seconds battled for every ball and grabbed a draw in an end-to-end game.
It was the beginning of a hectic end to the season as they play three games in eight days, ending their league campaign and taking part in the McClements Cup Final at Stormont on Saturday. They face Lisnagarvey Fourths at 3pm.
But before the excitement of the cup final there’s the league to finish and the point picked up in Cookstown means Mark Lappin’s men have more points than last season with one game still to go. The previous midweek Bangor had scrapped their way to another 3-3 draw with Lisnagarvey Seconds in Hillsborough with Sam Moore outstanding in goal and Simon Hunter scoring all three goals.
So they travelled to Cookstown with confidence and this was immediately reflected when Bangor took an early lead through Player of the Year, Chris Campbell. The livewire midfielder carving his own opening by running through the home defence and powering the ball past the goalkeeper from an acute angle.
Cookstown had more possession in the first half but Bangor were content to sit tight, frustrate them and strike on the counter attack. Alistair McVicar organised his back four well and the midfield in front of them ran hard against opponents who moved the ball quickly.
And Cookstown never really looked like scoring until Bangor gifted them the ball 30 yards from goal. Two quick passes later Moore was left exposed and the Cookstown forward fired the ball into the bottom left corner to make it 1-1.
On an extremely sapping day the second half proved more open with chances regularly at both ends. Cookstown took an early lead just minutes into the second period but Bangor responded magnificently.
They tightened up at the back and used the ball more sensibly on the break. And most importantly started winning penalty corners. From their second set-piece Bangor drew level when skipper Lappin, stepping in for the absent Adam Reading, scored with a flick that appeared to take two or three deflections to wrong-foot the Cookstown goalkeeper.
And then eight minutes later Bangor regained the lead from another penalty corner. This time the ball was switched to Hunter and he beat the goalkeeper at the near post to make it 3-2.
Both sides had chances to score but it was probably fair that Cookstown were the team to grab the next, and final, goal. Moore had made several saves and Ryan Garland always seemed to be on hand to clear his lines, but a lucky ricochet teed up the Cookstown centre forward and his superb finish on his reverse side left Moore with no chance.
Before the game Bangor would have perhaps settled for a draw but given they twice led against good quality opposition there was a slight sense of disappointment at the final whistle. Still, it’s on to the next challenge of a midweek game against Banbridge and then the McClements Cup Final on Saturday.
Having beaten Lisnagarvey Thirds already on the cup run and recently drawn with their Seconds in the league Bangor must enter the final against their Fourths as favourites but they would be wise to rid themselves of any complacency. No Lisnagarvey team is ever a pushover and the list of cup final upsets across all sports is plentiful. The final starts at 3pm on the water-based pitch at Stormont. All support is very welcome.