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Allen urging the Red Army to start march away from relegation zone

 

Safety net: Greg Allen wants out of the IHL’s bottom two
Safety net: Greg Allen wants out of the IHL’s bottom two

By Graham Hamilton

Cookstown captain Greg Allen is challenging his players to have a strong finish to the season as they bid to avoid the dreaded drop back to provincial status.

The Red Army sit second bottom, three points ahead of Cork C of I but two points behind Dublin YMCA as they head into the five-game run-in.

Their final three games are against title contenders Three Rock Rovers twice and Banbridge, so it is imperative they get something from their games against Pembroke in Dublin on Saturday and particularly against Cork at home the following week.

Allen admits it has been bittersweet over the past few weeks when they have played well but did not get what they deserved.

"We probably should have got more than draws out of the Monkstown and Annadale home matches, and I thought we played well enough to get a point at Glenanne," said the skipper.

"But we've been playing lovely stuff and that has been without Stuarty Smyth's firepower.

"We have been really good around the back with Dan Crooks, Paul Thompson, Jack Haycock and Matty Rollins in outstanding form. That base has allowed the lads in front a bit of freedom and it has paid dividends.

"But Saturday will be a tough match - it always is at Pembroke. They are going for the play-offs and have proven again and again that they are one of the most resilient teams in the league."

There is a reasonable chance that Cork, YMCA and Annadale are unlikely to get much out of their games against Lisnagarvey, Monkstown and Three Rock respectively, considering they conceded eight, seven and six in what were the reverse ties last week.

A positive result for Cookstown in Dublin could lift them out of the relegation play-off place at just the right time, whereas defeat could leave them in trouble.

Garvey are hoping to open some daylight between themselves and their nearest challengers when they make the trip to Cork, with main rivals Banbridge and Glenanne meeting at Havelock Park, which means one or both will lose further ground.

Garvey are unlikely to hit another eight against Cork, who should be a lot tighter on their home ground and with talisman John Jermyn back in their ranks.

But Bann will need to be a little more solid in defence - they have conceded the most from the leading four teams - if they are to make sure of a play-off place.

There's no doubt about the big game in the Ulster Premier League - the clash between Instonians and Kilkeel, which is effectively the title decider.

Inst have a one-point advantage and, with just two further games left, it could be a case of winner takes all at Shaw's Bridge.

SATURDAY: IHL: Cork C of I v Lisnagarvey (1pm); Banbridge v Glenanne (2.45pm): Annadale v Three Rock (2.30pm): Pembroke v Cookstown (2pm); YMCA v Monkstown (3.15pm). Ulster Premier: Instonians v Kilkeel (4pm); South Antrim v Mossley (2.45pm).

Sussex Regiment Cup: Newry v Queen's (2.30pm); Harlequins v North Down (1pm).

Intermediate League: PSNI v Portrush (2.30pm).

Intermediate Cup: Saintfield v Armagh (2.30pm)

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