Coleraine Academy 2002’s kicked off the new season in the Mid Ulster League with a deserved 3-1 victory away to Cookstown Youth.
Against a well organised and very direct Cookstown outfit, Coleraine struggled to get into the match for the first fifteen minutes. Coleraine settled down and started to get control in midfield with Scott McDonald starting to dictate proceedings. Up front, the excellent Charlie O’Neill was causing problems and was denied by the goalkeeper who also denied Luke McElfatrick in a five minute spell that saw Ben Moore and Scott McDonald shooting just wide.
Cookstown were playing a physical game and Coleraine lost the services of Charlie but it wasn’t to be their downfall, as with two minutes left before the break, Coleraine were awarded a penalty when Scott Simpson was taken down by the Cookstown keeper. Scott kept his nerve and converted the penalty to give Coleraine the half time lead.
The second half started with Cookstown on the front foot and after being denied by the post, the equaliser soon followed. This was the wakeup call Coleraine needed and they quickly regained control of the midfield.
Fortunately Charlie O’Neill was ready to return to action and immediately got on the end of another Ben Groocock cross with his header going just over.
With their target man now back up front, Coleraine were starting to dominate and it was only a question of time until a goal came and it was supplied from the excellent Ben Moore down the right. He had been causing havoc for the defence and his delivery was met by Charlie with only one result ever going to happen, the net bulged and it was 2-1 to Coleraine.
With ten minutes still to play, Cookstown threw everything at the boys in search of an equaliser. When the defence was finally breached, Jack Rodden produced the save of the match to deny the Cookstown forward and turn his goal bound shot around the post.
Coleraine were fighting for every ball and fighting for each other and were rewarded with two minutes remaining as a well worked team move ended with Ben Groocock delivering another fine cross from the left which Scott McDonald gleefully fired in to secure the three points.
Every player putting in a good shift today, particularly Luke Rea but the man of the match honours go to Charlie O’Neill, Cookstown just couldn’t handle him.