Cookstown arrived at Shaw’s Bridge with just 11 players but went home with all three points after a surprise 3-2 win over Knock in Saturday’s Senior One encounter.
Player unavailability meant that the Tyrone side traveled to the south Belfast venue with no substitutes but they started the game and finished it strongly against a side that went into the encounter three points better off.
In a match that wasn’t devoid of controversy, Knock felt somewhat aggrieved by the awarding of Cookstown’s second goal.
The home players thought the ball hadn’t entered the net following a penalty corner as it finished up a few yards wide after they felt it had rebounded off the metal work that holds up the nets outside rather than inside the goal.
“Looking at where the ball ended up, if it went into the goal first then that defies the law of physics,” said Knock defender Gillian Thompson.
“But there is nothing we can do about it now and it was an enjoyable match to play in and I thought we did well in the circumstances.
“It had been a while since we last played and we hadn’t managed to train much with the frosty nights.
“The first game back after the Christmas break is always difficult but I thought we coped okay.
“We made a bad start conceding twice early on but we came back well and could maybe have got a draw out of it.”
Cookstown midfielder Jackie Burns, who scored one and set up her team’s two other goals, was naturally delighted with the outcome especially as her team had no subs to call upon.
“We had several players away for one reason or another and could only manage to bring 11 and, even then, some of them had to double up and play for our seconds later on,” she explained.
“Normally we would bring at least 13 players for an away game but it just wasn’t possible.”
Cookstown got off to a dream start when, from their first attack, Burns fired in a cracking shot from the edge of the circle after a quickly taken free hit.
In the 14th minute the visitors doubled their lead when Burns slipped a penalty corner to her left for Gail Bates to sweep the ball home.
The Knock players made a token protest but after a brief confab between the umpires the goal was allowed to stand.
In the 20th minute Knock’s Sarah Stevenson found herself in a one-on-one with the keeper but Anna McKeown saved both the initial shot and reacted well to stop the follow up.
But six minutes later she was beaten when Sharon Wells slapped in a penalty corner rebound to give her side fresh hope.
After Stevenson had shot wide from the edge of the circle she made amends in the 33rd minute as she fired home a backhand effort from close range for the equalizer.
Cookstown came out with all guns blazing after the break and the impressive Laura White and Leanne Johnston both had shots saved by home keeper Dervla McErlean.
With 16 minutes left Knock were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty stroke after what looked like a deliberate hooking offence and from the resulting corner Jenny Magee’s shot was saved.
In the 62nd minute Cookstown struck the winner when a brilliant piece of play from Burns set up White whose blistering shot found the roof of the net.
Knock set off in pursuit of an equalizer and Cookstown keeper McKeown pulled off a fine point blank stop from Stevenson with six minutes of time left to play.
Chloe Bowden made a great intercepting tackle just as Magee was about to pull the trigger and shoot.
The visitors regained the initiative as Bates along with Rebecca Lyndsey went close.