Institute made the long journey down to Milltown on Friday in order to face Barry Gray’s Warrenpoint Town, who had been picking up form in their last few encounters prior to this fixture, despite having recorded a disappointing start to the season so far.
From the offset, Stute were immediately tested by the wet and windy conditions on offer – an addition to the match which had the potential to upset Institute’s style of play – however, the Sky Blues were unfazed by these conditions and dominated the opening phase.
Their first opportunity at goal presented itself when Stephen O’Flynn and Aaron Walsh linked up well going forward, the former Derry City striker laying off Walsh for a strike on the edge of the area, but the midfielder’s effort was well stopped by goalkeeper Martin Marron.
Next up for ‘Stute, Cormac Burke – who has just returned from injury – created a promising threat at goal, skipping past the Warrenpoint defence easily, before firing over the frame of the net with a shot from a narrow angle down the right flank.
Warrenpoint’s first opportunity of note in the first half came when Stephen McCabe managed to squeeze his way through the Stute defensive trio of Graham Crown, Mark Scoltock and Stephen O’Donnell, but inevitably his strike was tame and didn’t cause too much concern.
Following on from this, Institute opted to challenge Warrenpoint’s focus by attempting to catch them off guard, firstly Stephen O’Flynn floated wide from forty yards out, before Declan McKeever launched a shot from 25 yards out shortly after, but it was well saved by Marron.
The first half brightened up slightly as Warrenpoint briefly found their collective footing, but despite this they were unable to capitalise on this temporary bout of momentum, and the game quickly stalemated as Institute reawakened to push their opponents back once more.
HT: Institute 0-0 Warrenpoint
After the team talks were shared, the second half began, and though continuing the game’s goal drought for the majority of the ninety minutes, it was to prove a far more exciting period, particularly in comparison to the previous stage.
The first major incident occurred when defender Darren King was sent off for a second bookable offence, the referee deeming his tackle on Stephen Curry to have been a foul – Curry injuring his shoulder in the process, and he was quickly replaced by Ben Doherty as a result.
Comments began to echo around Milltown suggesting that the game was over for the home team at this point onward, with it being perceived that Institute would take advantage of having an extra man, but this proved to be easier said than done.
Just minutes after the sending off, Warrenpoint were handed the best chance of the night up to that moment when Daniel Hughes found himself free in front of goal, but as Eugene Ferry rushed out of his goal, Hughes tried to lob the net-minder, and his shot flew well over.
Some Warrenpoint fans left feeling let down by the officials as Stephen O’Donnell evaded what they felt warranted a sending off. O’Donnell was forgiven for a heavy tackle in the first half, and received a yellow in the second phase for another harsh challenge.
Despite some drawing parallels between this and Darren King’s sending off, the Institute travelling supporters clearly didn’t share these views, with Stephen O’Donnell picking up the Supporters’ Man of the Match award after the match.
It wasn’t until the very end that the most significant event unfolded though, as the final minute approached, with stoppage time looming, substitutes Ben Doherty and Paul McVeigh connected well to poach the winner right at the brink.
Ben Doherty took the ball down the wing, supplied a pass into the penalty area where McVeigh collected it, the former Finn Harps striker needed a handful of touches while he found the space to shoot, and then he let loose with a well placed finish into the bottom, right corner.
The entire Institute team sprinted over to the team bench, knowing that this was almost certainly the decider in this tie, and Paul McVeigh is undoubtedly delighted to claim his first league goal of the season since joining the Drumahoe club.
FT: Institute 1-0 Warrenpoint