It was a disappointing afternoon for Institute as they lost 3-0 to Ballymena after goals from Gary McCutcheon, Allan Jenkins and Eamonn McAllister.
It was Institute who started most lively, with Darren McFadden presenting an early threat, but the home defence were able to cope with the pressure.
McCutcheon knocked Ballymena into the lead from the penalty spot on 17 minutes after Gary Thompson was deemed to have been fouled by Stephen O’Donnell in the box.
Michael McCrudden created a good chance when he attempted an audacious overhead kick, but it fell just wide of Allen’s post on 21 minutes.
Things got worse for Paul Kee’s men when Allan Jenkins was able to fire the ball easily into the empty goal from an Eamonn McAllister assist.
Just past the half hour mark Robbie Hume forced Tim Allen into making a strong save, but nothing came from the resulting corner.
Robbie Hume and Darren McFadden continued to cause trouble going forward, but Ballymena cut short any threats to maintain their lead.
The first half was put to rest when Eamonn McAllister headed into an empty goal after Jenkins’ initial short was well saved by Marty Gallagher.
HT: Ballymena 3-0 Institute
‘Stute fans held little hope heading into the second phase, and the visitors were unable to reverse this pessimism in a quiet second half.
The first clinical chance fell to Ballymena, Tony Kane’s cross finding David Munster’s head, but the effort floated just wide of the post.
Despite a handful of lively moments going forward, ‘Stute appeared without confidence in this stage, the first half goals taking their toll.
Ballymena cruised as the Sky Blues misplaced a series of passes and looked to wither in front of this strong and fast-paced United line-up.
Jenkins had a great chance to finish off the tie as the ‘Stute defence slept, but he could only blast wide after O’Donnell lost possession.
As the game approached a close, Paul Kee attempted to rejuvenate his team with a triple substitution, Davitt Walsh making his debut.
This proved ineffective however, as Ballymena maintained their control, and inevitably the home side were able to hold onto the win.
FT: Ballymena 3-0 Institute
Ballymena: Tim Allen, Jim Ervin, David Munster, Johnny Taylor, Stephen McBride, Eamonn McAllister (69′), Tony Kane, Gary Thompson, David Cushley (61′), Allan Jenkins, Gary McCutcheon (75′).
Subs: Darren Boyce, Alan Teggart (61′), Brian McCaul, Matthew Shevlin (75′), Neal Gawley (69′).
Institute: Marty Gallagher, Paddy McLaughlin, Stephen O’Donnell, Dean Curry, Stephen Curry, Declan McKeever (77′), Duwayne McManus (77′), Aaron Walsh, Michael McCrudden, Darren McFadden, Robbie Hume (77′).
Subs: Davitt Walsh (77′), Mark Scoltock, Peter Bradley (77′), Mark Forker (77′), Graham Crown.