INSTITUTE’S League Cup run which had brought such promise was brought to a bitterly disappointing end at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday night and manager, Kevin Deery felt it was an ‘opportunity lost’.
Following the heroics of their last 16 victory at Seaview Park where they took the scalp of Crusaders, the Drumahoe men were handed a winnable home quarter-final draw against Premier Division strugglers, Warrenpoint Town.
However, the exertions of that remarkable extra-time triumph against Crusaders and last Saturday’s win over Championship leaders Ards, evidently took its toll on Deery’s young side at a blustery and rain-drenched Riverside.
It proved to be a family affair for Warrenpoint as goals from the Hughes brothers sent the Milltown club through to the last four, but it certainly wasn’t plain sailing for the Premier Division side as they were made to come from behind after Gareth Brown gave Institute the lead on 28 minutes with a superb strike.
Warrenpoint defender, Mark Hughes then linked up with his brother Daniel before slotting the ball past the helpless Michael Lynch six minutes before the break.
And on 63 minutes Graham Crown conceded a soft penalty kick and Daniel Hughes stepped up to convert confidently into the bottom corner.
The ‘Stute boss felt his side lacked hunger, desire and, for once, quality in the final third and they certainly threw away an excellent chance to put their name in the hat for the semi-finals.
“I’ve been involved in the game a long time and when you get a quarter-final at home it’s a great chance to go through after everything we’ve put into this cup but unfortunately we couldn’t perform to our capabilities,” said Deery.
“We lacked desire and I felt they were a bit hungrier than us and they showed a bit more quality than us which was the disappointing thing for me,” he added. “Quality is one attribute that my team haven’t been lacking this season but on Wednesday night it deserted them.
“It’s so frustrating this game. We’ve gone to the Premier League champions and deserved to win and last Saturday against the leaders in our division we won well and then on Wednesday we just didn’t turn up.”
Warrenpoint Town were late getting off the team bus on Wednesday night and Institute kindly granted their request to put the game back 10 minutes. But their late arrival obviously played a part in their slow start to the contest and ‘Stute were certainly not going to wait for them to warm to the occasion.
Brown received the ball from the impressive Ciaron Harkin 25 yards from goal and he ran at the Warrenpoint defence before drilling a clinical strike into the far corner to give ‘Stute a deserved lead.
But from then on the home lot lacked real penetration and allowed Warrenpoint to get a foothold on the game.
“We scored a great goal out of nothing but outside of that we created very little, said Deery. “We pumped balls long and we needed leaders to step up. They gave everything but we lacked a bit of quality. I don’t know if it was the conditions but it was the same for both teams.”
The conditions were dreadful and Warrenpoint took advantage of the swirling winds at their backs as they pressed for an equaliser before the break and it duly arrived on 39 minutes.
Hughes beat his man on the edge of the ‘Stute penalty area before playing a neat one-two with his brother Daniel and he calmly side-stepped the ‘Stute keeper before slotting into an empty net from five yards.
Warrenpoint began to control proceedings in the second half and were awarded a penalty kick when Roy Kierans was clumsily brought down inside the area by Graham Crown. Up stepped striker Daniel Hughes and he slotted his spot-kick beautifully into the bottom corner on 63 minutes.
‘Stute were pressing for the equaliser and Aaron Harkin came so close to finding the net with 12 minutes to go from a free-kick wide on the left flank but his curling strike was punched clear on the line by Shanahan.
Conor McDonald could have sealed the win for Warrenpoint on 83 minutes but his low strike from 10 yards was turned behind superbly by Lynch.
‘Stute huffed and puffed for the remainder of the game but couldn’t unlock the Warrenpoint defence as their cup journey ended in frustration.
“You have to defend right and he waltzed through the middle of us and you have to be more aggressive that shouldn’t happen. The second goal it could have been cleared and the boy gets his body in front of the ball and goes down and wins a penalty. It was another bad goal to give away. And then we huffed and puffed but didn’t really look like scoring.”
While Deery will look upon the defeat as a missed opportunity, he knows the club’s priority is about getting of Championship One and he is hoping to continued climbing the table after that confidence boosting win away to Ards last Saturday.
“We have to rally now and win the next league game at home to Distillery on Saturday week and we need a win.
“There’ll be bigger days for us. There’s only six points between us and fourth place in the league so we have to look to climb this table now.”