Some last-gasp heroics ensured Ballinamallard United’s survival in the Danske Bank Premiership on Wednesday night.
Steve Feeney’s 95th-minute goal earned a 3-3 draw against Institute at Ferney Park – and a 5-4 aggregate win in this promotion/relegation play-off.
Feeney’s finish was a cruel blow to a young Institute side who had taken the lead three times in the game.
The visitors opened the scoring after just 16 minutes when Jamie Dunne’s shot from the corner of the penalty box crept just inside the far post after a slight deflection.
But Ballinamallard drew level on 21 minutes when Emmett Friars rose high to head home a great Jason McCartney free-kick.
Before the half hour Stute were ahead again. This time McCrudden skipped down the flank to deliver for Gareth Brown to guide home at the near post.
Mallards levelled 16 minutes into the second half when Johnny Lafferty was pulled down in the box and Cathal Beacom delivered from the penalty spot.
A minute later though they were behind again when a rasping shot from Shane McGinty sailed into the top corner past Alvin Rouse.
The game looked dead and buried and Institute were on their way to the top flight, until the corner delivery from Beacom had them backtracking and it was Feeney who was claiming the final touch.
Ballinamallard United: Rouse, Morris, Dykes, Friars, Feeney, McCartney, Beacom, Currie, Campbell, Lafferty, McKenna
Subs: McMenamin, Smith, Owens, McIlwaine, Brownlee
Institute: Gallagher, O’Donnell, Morrow, McLaughlin, Stoltock, C. Harkin, Dunne, A. Harkin, Brown, McGinty, McCrudden
Subs: Hume, Jarvis, McIntyre, Connolly, Muldooon
Referee: Ray Hetherington (D’gannon)
Ballinamallard manager Whitey Anderson was elated after the dramatic finish.
“I don’t think you can put that into words. It was incredible for everyone at the football club,” he said.
“There is so much relief for everyone around here tonight. It has been a long season,” he said.
“I want to pay the utmost credit to my players.”
“The game was end to end and you could see the two teams hadn’t played a lot. It was very hard for both sets of players tonight. It was the case of they went ahead and we came back. We kept going to the very end.
. What they have been through in the last seven or eight weeks has been immeasurable. Their lives have been turned upside down.”
He criticised Carrick Rangers for their incompetence and the inability of the IFA to have the correct processes in place for disciplinary matters.