Institute took on Ballyclare today in a clash at the top of the table. With ‘Stute not playing again until Boxing Day, they were keen to keep the pressure on the away side. The match today took place today at the home of Limavady United.
The match exploded into action when goal machine Niall Grace bagged a third minute goal, nipping in with a header from a well delivered free kick. However, Ballyclare responded quickly and equalised on the 5th minute. ‘Stute responded well however, and came close on ten occasions forcing the Ballyclare keeper into making several smart saves. ‘Stute’s attacks on the Ballyclare goal were relentless. As the match went on the challenges became increasingly firmer. With tempers begin to simmer, the referee began to lose control of the game, and the match became scrappy, and hotly contested. ‘Stute winger Jamie Dunne was the victim of yet more poor officiating, after being brought down in the Ballyclare box. Despite obvious penalty claims, the winger was harshly booked for simulation. However, the last chance of the half fell to Ballyclare who counter attacked swiftly from a ‘Stute corner, and ‘Stute goalkeeper Marty Gallagher made by far the save of the match to keep the sides level going into the half time breaks.
The second half started as the second one ended, with ‘Stute on top and the play becoming increasingly aggressive. Tempers threatened to boil over on a few occasions with alterations happening over many dubious free kicks. Yet despite the hostile environment, Institute showed fantastic professionalism, and after twenty minutes of sustained pressure from the away side, soon began to find their rhythm again. On the 71st minute, captain Michael McCrudden chased down what seemed a lost opportunity, robbed the Ballyclare centre back of the ball and proceeded to slot cooly home from six yards. ‘Stute saw the rest of the game out and as the final whistle blew, emerged well deserved winners from the hotly contested match.
A fantastic performance today from each and every ‘Stute player, leaving fans yet again dreaming of promotion.
Full-time: Institute 2 vs. Ballyclare 1
Report by Dylan Harvey