INSTITUTE 1 BALLYMENA 2
Ballymena United recorded their first league victory since November 22, when deservedly claiming the spoils at Drumahoe against a strugging Institute.
However, if the truth be told, the ‘Braidmen’ really should have been home and hosed at the break having squandered several clear-cut scoring opportunities during an opening period which they had dominated.
That said, it took an Institute opening strike to awaken Glen Ferguson’s side from their slumber but once they restored equality, Ballymena were never seriously troubled.
The home side, clearly missing the cutting edge of former striker, Stephen O’Flynn, stunned their visitors when taking a fourth minute lead.
Lee Toland’s low cross into the edge of the danger saw Robbie Hume pounce and his shot appeared to take a deflection of a defender giving keeper, Stuart Addis no chance.
To be fair ’Stute continued to push forward with Hume and Cormac Burke, failing to take advantage when well placed but both failed to hit the target.
Ballymena, however, always looked dangerous when in possession and in the 14th minute they went so close to equalising.
Striker Darren Boyce did well to dispossess Stephen O’Donnell but his goal-bound shot was headed over the crossbar by ’Stute skipper, Paddy McLaughlin.
Institute keeper Marty Gallagher did well to deny Boyce again and Davy Munster before the latter finally levelled matters in the 24th minute.
Following a Neal Gawley corner from the right, the home defence failed to adequately clear their lines and the well placed centre-back lashed the ball home to restore equality.
Referee Keith Kennedy then emerged the centre of attention on the half hour when he pointed to the spot, apparently for what was an off the ball altercation suggesting that Ballymena defender Johnny Taylor had been impeded.
The Lisburn official was adamant and Alan Teggart confidently drove the spotkick home to give the visitors a deserved lead.
And Ballymena finished the first half much the stronger when Teggart’s superb curling effort crashed off the upright with keeper, Gallagher, stranded.
The ’Stute keeper failed to return after the break having been sick before the game kicked off.
And while scoring chances during the second half were at a premium, it was the visitors to went closest to extending their lead.
Gawley sliced a shot wide of the target in the 63rd minute when well placed and two minutes later Institute’s substitute keeper, Eugene Ferry, did well to deny Jenkins from extending Ballymena’s lead in a one-on-one situation.
Institute: Gallagher; McLaughlin (Doherty, 60), O’Donnell, D. Curry; S. Curry, Walsh, Crown, Toland; Hume (McIntyre, 74) McVeigh, Burke.
Ballymena United: Addis; Kane, Munster, Taylor, McBride; Gawley, Surgenor, Jenkins, Teggart (Kane, 90); Boyce (McCullagh, 87), Tipton (Ferguson, 67)
Referee: Mr. Keith Kennedy (Lisburn).