Focus Remains on Championship

Institutes Michael McCrudden evades a challenge by H & W Welders defender Dan McMurray during their Intermediate Cup game.  (1902JB21)
Institutes Michael McCrudden evades a challenge by H & W Welders defender Dan McMurray during their Intermediate Cup game. (1902JB21)

INSTITUTE may have let themselves down following last weekend’s shocking cup defeat at the hands of Amateur League side, Kilmore Rec, but there will be no complaints following Saturday’s comfortable Intermediate Cup win over Harland & Wolff Welders.

ARTHUR DUFFY was in the Riverside Stadium

Photographs: JOE BOLAND

And having publicly admitted that he selected “the wrong team” for the Irish Cup game, ‘Stute boss, Paul Kee, rung in the changes, although he also admitted that sickness and injuries had a major impact in the team which started against the “Welders.”

That said, Kee’s charges certainly started on the front foot and their cause was clearly helped with the presence of what appeared a nervous Welders keeper, James Taylor, who struggled in terms of confidence.

Under pressure from striker, Warner Mullan, during the early stages, the keeper spilled the ball when he should have done better but having escaped punishment, worse was to come for the Welders’ custodian.

After just three minutes, the superb Aaron Walsh played an inch-perfect pass into the path of Michael McCrudden and his deep cross was firmly meet by Joe Gray and his looping header dropped over the keeper and into the top corner - a superb goal.

In the 16th minute, Gray was in the thick of the action when netted a second goal, however, keeper Taylor will have nightmares following the fortuitous strike.

Gray floated the ball deep into the danger area, Taylor rose to intercept the ball under no pressure, he spilled it, fell to the ground and actually palmed the ball into his own net from close range, much to the delight of the home support.

Institute may have grown in confidence but they pressed the self-destruct button in the 20th minute when an under-weighted header back to his keeper was intercepted by Curtis Black and he gleefully lobbed the ball over stranded keeper, Marty Gallagher, to put his side back in the game.

But five minutes later Institute put that setback to the back of their minds when James McClay made it 3-1.

And the midfielder was also fortunate. Having raced onto an incisive pass and in a one-on-one situation with Taylor, McClay’s first effort was parried by the advancing keeper, but the ball rebounded back of McClay’s body and into the unguarded net!

To be fair, the Welders did enjoyed periods of dominance after the break but the home back four stood firm with centre-backs Paddy McLaughlin and Dean Jarvis, well supported by Sean Roddy and Declan McKeever in keeping former Linfield striker, Davy Larmour at bay.

The veteran hitman, now in the twilight of his career, spurned a good opportunity in the 70th minute when ballooning the ball high over the ‘Stute crossbar when well placed.

Afterwards a delighted Paul Kee acknowledged the effort his side had put in and he was particularly happy at the way his players had started the game.

“That was probably the best we have started this season,” he noted. “We took advantage of our scoring chances but they came into it more in the second half but, at the same time, I thought we controlled the game.

“When we moved 3-1 ahead, other teams would have folded by they maintanied their workrate and came at us which was very good for us defensively as we had to work equally as hard to keep them out.”

Last week’s Irish Cup defeat didn’t help morale at the Riverside Stadium and while the Intermediate Cup was not considered a priority for the “Sky Blues,” this win was warmly welcomed by Kee.

“Our priority has always been to challenge for promotion this season and while we didn’t really talk about last week’s disappointing defeat, this was a good response.

“We’ve now accepted the Kilmore Rec defeat and opted to get on with it and I think the player shown that in this win and the Welders’ performance actually helped our preparation for next Saturday’s vital Championship match against Dundela,” noted Kee.

“We have rached the next round of the Intermediate Cup but we have nine big league games remaining and we must be ready for that challenge each week.”

Championship leaders, Ards, lost 3-1 at Warrenpoint on Saturday, another boost for ‘Stute with Kee adding that Warrenpoint had now played their way into contention for promotion.

“We cannot afford to take our eyes off the ball. Every Championship game we play from now until the end of the season will resemble a cup final and we’ve got to be up for each and every one of those games,” he concluded.

INSTITUTE - 4-3-3 - Gallagher; Roddy, McLaughlin, Jarvis, McKeever; Walsh, Gray, McClay (Hume, 60); McCauley, Mullan (McFadden, 75), McCrudden. Subs. not used: Semple, Parkhouse, Hegarty.

H&W WELDERS - 4-4-2 - Taylor; McMurray, Magee, Muir, Armstrong; Larmour (Vernor, 72), Harris, Adams, Black; Garrett (Brown, 72), Devine. Subs. not used: Gallagher, Miskelly.

REFEREE - Mr. L. Tavinder (Dungannon).