Saturday afternoon played host to the much-anticipated survival crunch match between Institute and Ballinamallard United, as both teams sought to secure their Premiership spots for next season, though resting comfortably above bottom side Warrenpoint before the tie began, sitting in 8th and 9th place respectively.
After this result however, Sky Blues boss Paul Kee will be the only manager of the two leaving with an increased sense of relief, while Whitey Anderson may now be looking over his shoulders to examine the gap between his team and the relegation zone, after the visitors recorded a fantastic 3-2 victory in County Fermanagh.
A wonderful early goal from talisman Darren McFadden, on the back of an assist from Supporters’ Man of the Match Thomas, pushed Stute into the lead – but this was only to be the first goal in a 5-finish thriller.
Next up, on 18 minutes, Ballinamallard player Anthony Elding grabbed an equaliser for his side against the run of play, but this was to inspire something of a revival-of-form for United, and late on in the opening stage, Leon Carters managed to deflect home a scrappy initial effort from Cathal Beacom, goalkeeper Eugene Ferry left with no chance.
The half-time break soon followed, but the second phase of the match was to oversee a complete reversal, as the Drumahoe natives returned to the field revitalised and ready to fight for the victory.
Minutes into the second-half, Stute top-goalscorer Stephen O’Flynn pushed the ball into the back of the net as Thomas McBride’s pinpoint cross fell perfectly to O’Flynn just before the goal-line, leaving the experienced striker with no other option but to score.
Institute continued to dominate the game from this point on, but it wasn’t until Michael McCrudden entered the frame, making his first appearance of the season after being absent with injury, that Stute were able to fire the final bullet. On the pitch just seconds, and with his first touch of the ball, McCrudden dipped United net-minder Murphy from 30-yards to give Stute the lead for the second time in the match.
After this moment of magic, the Stute defence once more came into use, with Graham Crown, Mark Scoltock, and captain Paddy McLaughlin putting in yet another solid shift to see out the match.
Next up on the Institute calender, Glentoran make the short-journey down to Londonderry to face-off with the Riverside outlet, and the club would like to encourage a big support.