PADDY McLaughlin proved an unlikely hero for Institute as the club skipper struck deep into stoppage time to salvage a crucial point against Bangor at Riverside Stadium.
The long serving centre-half was involved in both the Bangor goals but he turned from villain to saviour with a well taken goal in the 92nd minute to keep intact the Drumahoe club’s unbeaten start to the Championship One campaign.
Institute have been absorbing and attractive to watch one week, infuriating and inconsistent the next and this performance was certainly not one to linger long in the memory.
Saturday’s frustrating performance resulted in the club’s third league draw in succession and came off the back of a defeat to Intermediate side, Newbuildings in the North West Senior Cup Final.
Nonetheless, Paul Kee will be silently satisfied with a point given his side were not at their best and thankful that they remain on the heels of leaders Dergview who they meet at the end of the month.
“It was pleasing to see that equaliser going in,” said Kee. “The players made a bigger effort in the second half and limited Bangor to few chances.
“Our form since the Dergview game hasn’t been good - particularly in the league,” he added. “But the fact we’ve been playing poorly and still picking up results is a good sign.”
They could so easily have lost the game and deserved to go into the interval behind after Ethan Boylan gave Bangor the lead on eight minutes.
Rejuvenated after the break there was certainly a marked improvement and although Stephen Parkhouse missed a penalty, goals from Darren McFadden and McLaughlin either side of Boylan’s second strike secured a crucial point.
Kee believes his side have been the victims of their own success during the early part of the season and fixture congestion has given the manager no choice but to force players to play through the pain barrier.
Parkhouse and Michael McCrudden were clearly carrying injuries and he was pleased with the character shown by his team in the second half.
“We’ve played a lot of games midweek and we have players who are catching up in fitness,” continued Kee. “The last couple of Thursday nights we’ve had to do recovery sessions so we’re not actually working the team.
“We haven’t done the work we would like and that’s starting to affect our game. There was a few things said in the changing room at half-time and the players responded to it.
“That goal at the end will give them a big lift and it’s a credit to the players.
“Bangor didn’t play last week so they were fresh while we’ve played three games in that period so a lot of the boys are running on empty,
“It was a good point against a team that will be up there challenging at the end of the Championship.”
The blustery, wet conditions weren’t conducive to attractive football and both sides struggled to string successive passes together during a disappointing opening.
Bangor were the first to settle into the game and Tommy Lambe tested Michael Doherty with a strike from 25 yards after Gary Henderson lost possession.
The warning signs were there for the home side and Bangor made them pay for a string of errors on eight minutes when, from a throw-in, Jordan Forsythe’s curling cross towards the back post was steered into the net by Boylan after he all too easily evaded the attentions of McLaughlin.
‘Stute were much improved upon the restart and were awarded a penalty on 56 minutes when McCauley’s shot struck the hand of Mark Whitford. Parkhouse’s spotkick was saved by Cairnduff who was almost on the six yard line when the ball left the striker’s boot.
And five minutes later the home side were back on level terms when McFadden’s strike from inside the Bangor penalty area ricocheted into the net.
Just as the tide appeared to be turning in ‘Stute’s favour, Bangor capitalised on a mistake by McLaughlin who was brushed aside by Boylan on the edge of the area and the striker slotted past Doherty.
Institute piled on the pressure and when substitute, Robbie Hume dribbled down the right wing, he delivered into the area and McLaughlin pounced to find the net from 12 yards.