Institute worthy winners against title-chasing Ards
Institute may have found victories hard to come by so far this season, but they were worthy winners in a game that saw them take all three points from title-chasing Ards at the Bangor Fuels Arena on Saturday.
On paper, many have been expecting an Ards victory as a formality – the hosts were just one point off leaders Harland &Wolff Welders prior to this game, having previously suffered only two league defeats. They had also put fellow contenders Larne to the sword in a 6-1 drubbing on their own turf last weekend.
But this result came as no surprise to ‘Stute boss Kevin Deery. The man who took over the helm at the end of last season has been watching with frustration as they have impressed in every other way but landing the spoils.
The Institute gaffer said: “That was the type of performance that the players have been putting in every week. We deserve more than our points tally suggests.
“Okay, our ‘goals for’ column isn’t the best, but we have lost four games out of 11 by a goal to nil. We are dominating games, but not taking our chances.
“Without any disrespect to Ards’ style of play, they were direct against us today, and we had to man-up. We showed guts and character, and I thought we got what we deserved.”
Institute started brightly, with Shane McGinty twice causing problems for Ards in the first 10 minutes, firstly testing keeper Ryan Brown from 20 yards, then forcing Greg Hall to block a seemingly goal-bound effort from a tight angle.
Mark Scoltock also looked as he might put the visitors ahead, as he chested down from a Jamie Dunne cross, but shot over.
A much cleaner connection came at the other end, from Ross Arthurs, with the Ards striker’s volley matched in class by the sprawling save of Michael Lynch. Straight after this, a Denver Gage header from Thomas Lambe’s corner went wide, while a thumping strike from Ben Browne hit the side-netting.
On such a miserable afternoon, many footballers would probably have been happier with their feet up in front of the TV – and indeed, with postponements, many probably were – but to their credit, both teams were setting about this game in the right way, and the game had a good tempo.
For a spell in the middle of the first half, it was end-to-end, with Gareth Brown rolling the ball forward expertly to McGinty, but Brown got down well to save the striker’s ensuing shot.
Then, Eamonn McAllister was kicking himself that he didn’t put Ards into the lead, after failing to connect a header to Ross Arthurs’ cross at full stretch.
Institute proved themselves just as likely to break the deadlock in the 33rd minute, when, with his back to goal, Gareth Brown swivelled before producing a finish into the side-netting.
In the end, it was ‘Stute who broke the deadlock a minute later, with Ciaron Harkin threading through to McGinty, whose on-target effort took an unforgiving deflection off Gage into the back of the net.
The home side had an opportunity to level the scores before the break during a period of Ards pressure, with Browne floating a high ball into the box towards Emmet Templeton, but Dean Curry rushed in with a timely interception.
Ards began the second half with a greater sense of attacking intent, and none more so than Eamon McAllister, who cracked the inside of the post with a shot from the corner of the box. Then, in the 50th minute, his curling shot was deflected out for a corner – and from that corner, he fired over from just outside the area.
Although in the lead, Institute didn’t look in any mood to rest on their laurels, and it took a good save from Brown to keep out a powerful 25-yard effort from Aaron Harkin, who later sent in a dangerous free kick, only to see it narrowly headed over by Scoltock.
That lead, however, looked to have been thrown into jeopardy when Stephen O’Donnell’s challenge on Eamon McAllister brought him his second yellow card of the day, and he was sent off.
But, despite their efforts – including two Aaron Boyd headers, both flicked over from Thomas Lambe crosses – Ards could not find a way through.
And Institute completed a successful afternoon for themselves in injury time, when late substitute Jordan Armstrong cut the ball back to Aaron Harkin, who obliged with a neat finish.
After an extensive post-match team talk with his players, Ards boss Niall Currie looked for answers on how his team had gone from a 6-1 win over Larne to a 2-0 loss against Institute.
“It’s just mentality,” he said. “Pure mentality. It’s hard for any manager to explain.
“The sad thing from our point of view was our lack of creativity. Institute were first to the ball, they were hungrier than us, and they were everything we tried to be.
“But you win leagues by beating Institutes – not just beating Larnes, Bangors or Welders.”
This Saturday, his side will attempt to do the latter, when they take on the Championship One front-runners at Tillysburn Park. After the Welders drew at Ballyclare Comrades at the weekend, Ards can at least take comfort in the knowledge that a win would take them to the top of the heap.
MAN OF THE MATCH: A superb influence at the back, but also could easily have scored at the other end of the pitch, too.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The Institute players walking straight over after the full time whistle to applaud their supporters, who got their reward for travelling to see their team on such a cold, wet November day.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Michael Lynch’s diving save from Ross Arthurs’ 17th minute volley was one for the cameras.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Stephen O’Donnell’s two yellow cards and subsequent dismissal were undoubtedly avoidable.
Ryan Brown: Decent at best. 6
Greg Hall: Good service from wide and solid defending. 7
James Cully: Tidied up on several occasions. 7
Denver Gage: Unfortunate that his deflection played such a big part in ‘Stute’s opener. 6
Thomas Lambe: Doing clever rather than simple thing wasn’t always the right move. 6
Joe McDonnell: Game cut short due to injury. 6
Emmett Templeton: Gave his team-mates an option. 7
Ben Browne: Nothing to show for his efforts. 6
Eamon McAliister: Particularly promising in the second half. 7
Ross Arthurs: Not easily shrugged off the ball. 7
Jordan Baker: Chances were few and far between. 6
Aaron Boyd: On for McDonnell, 29
Danny McKee: On for Browne, 64
David McAllister: On for Templeton, 75
Liam McAuley: Not used
Gary Warwick: Not used
Michael Lynch: A pleasing contribution. 8
Graham Crown: Did his job reasonably well. 7
Dean Curry: Tough-tackling, no-nonsense display. 8
Stephen O’Donnell: Committed, though two bookings let him down. 6
Mark Scoltock: Uncompromising in all that he did. 9
Aiden McAuley: Put in a fair shift. 7
Ciaron Harkin: Linked up the play well. 7
Aaron Harkin: Persistence paid off with a goal at the end. 8
Jamie Dunne: Great movement on and off the ball. 7
Gareth Brown: Playeda key role in Institute’s attacks. 8
Shane McGinty: Positive and energetic, a real goal threat. 8
Darryl McDermott: On for Dunne, 76
Jordan Armstrong: On for McGinty, 86
Declan McKeever: On for McAuley, 88
Marty Gallagher: Not used
Ryan Morrow: Not used
Belfast Telegraph Digital