GARBHAN FRIEL, back from Dubai, was on the double as Cockhill Celtic began 2020 on a winning note against Finn Harps Reserves in the bmcsports.ie Ulster Senior League.
Cockhill Celtic 4 Finn Harps Reserves 2
Cockhill cemented their place at the top of the USL with a hard fought victory in a match which was an excellent advert fir the league.
The match started at a frantic pace with both teams looking to attack.
Harps had the first chance on tour minutes when a Corey McBride corner was volleyed over by Darragh Ellison.
On nine minutes a Ronan Doherty free kick from the left found Garbhan Friel at the back post but his header from an acute angle was straight at Adrian McLaughlin who parried away.
Cockhill were first to the clearance and a James Bradley snapshot from the edge of the box hit the inside of the Harps post before being cleared.
Harps should have broken the deadlock on 13 when Gabby Aoukala beat the offside trap and rounded Eoghan Jordan but his goalbound effort was brilliantly blocked by Oisin McColgan.
They had another chance on 25 when Luke Rudden found space in the Cockhill box but his low shot was well blocked by Jordan.
The home side took the lead three minutes against the run of play when a Harps corner was cleared to Mark Moran in the centre circle.
He released Laurence Toland who was fouled by McLaughlin resulting in a penalty which was expertly converted by Cathal Farren.
Harps responded almost instantly. A throw in on the left resulted in a cross finding Corey McBride on the right side of the Cockhill box. McBride fired a brilliant shot to the top corner to level matters.
Cockhill regained the lead on 39 minutes. Ronan Doherty gained possession in midfield and found Farren who played a great ball to Friel on the left. Friel squared up the defender before firing low past McLaughlin.
The second half started scrappily with neither side able to force a chance of note.
Cockhill almost had a third goal on the hour when a Lee McColgan corner found Friel but his header was parried and Toland’s follow-up was cleared.
Harps were level for the second time on 66 minutes. They had possession in the right corner when the ball found McBride. His cross-shot landing in the far corner of the net.
Cockhill went again and went ahead for the third time on 72. An attack was cleared to the right hand side where James Bradley dug out a fantastic cross which left Friel with a simple headed finish and he made no mistake.
Cockhill were on top now but Harps were dangerous on the counter so relief greeted Cockhill’s fourth goal on 88 minutes.
Jason Breslin stepped into midfield to intercept a Harps attack. He found Stephen Duffy who swivelled and fired low past McLaughlin from the edge if the box.