Darren McCauley netted his eighth goal of the season on Saturday as 10 men Institute battled to a share of the spoils with Dergview to ensure top spot in the Championship One table.
McCauley, who was named September’s ‘Player of the Month’, is enjoying a rich vein of form and his first half strike put Paul Kee’s men into the driving seat in this clash at Darragh Park.
The midfielder has scored in six of ‘Stute’s last seven games in all competitions and Saturday’s strike proved pivotal.
Dergview hit back, however, just before the interval and when Stephen O’Donnell received his marching orders by referee, Lee Tavinder for a reckless challenge on Higginbotham in the second half, the home side felt they could go on and win the game.
As it was, ‘Stute held on to maintain their impressive unbeaten start to the season and secure a point which took them to the summit of the table for the first time this season.
The first half proved an evenly contested affair with both sides keeping the ball on the deck, despite the difficult playing conditions.
Dergview threatened first with visiting goalkeeper, Michael Doherty comfortably saving a powerful shot from towering midfielder Adam Lecky, following a quick interchange of passes between Richard Clarke and Gareth Sproule.
Defender, Dale Maxwell then headed narrowly wide from a Darren Higginbotham corner kick before Tom Carlin glanced a header inches the wrong side of a post at the opposite end from a teasing Darren McCauley cross.
McCauley was beginning to influence matters and on 23 minutes he drew first blood for ‘Stute.
The in-form midfielder received a pass from marauding left-back Colm McLaughlin and from just inside the area he curled the ball with perfect precision inside the base of Jack Boggs’s left upright.
Moments later Boggs got down smartly to gather a low strike from Carlin before Dergview hit back to level 11 minutes before the break.
‘Stute only partially cleared their lines from a Higginbotham corner kick, home skipper Colin Robinson whipped the ball back in the danger area for substitute Mark Lecky to head home.
The hosts shaded posession for the remainder of the half and in the final minute Doherty acrobatically tipped over a thunderous strike by Adam Lecky following another Higginbotham corner.
Both sides created early openings on the resumption of the second half.
Sproule scampered away on the left to pull back for Maxwell who brilliantly connected first time only to see his goal-bound effort strike team-mate Adam Lecky.
Paul Kee’s men though were beginning to dictate matters as Darren McFadden came in off the right flank to curl well over before midfielder Gary Henderson steered his shot inches past Boggs’s right post from all off 25 yards.
Having spent some time in the trenches, Dergview were soon back on the offensive with Doherty parrying another stinging hit by Adam Lecky, with Sproule steering agonisingly wide on the follow-up.
Two minutes later the home faithful thought their side had snatched a possible winner but their celebrations were cut short when Adam Lecky’s header from a Maxwell free kick was chalked off for offside.
Dergview appeared to find a second wind and the pendulum swung in the home side’s favour when centre-back Stephen O’Donnell was red carded for a clumsy challenge on Higginbotham as the striker attempted to race onto Clarke’s ball over the top.
Both sides pushed for a winner but neither created that crucial opening to clinch all three points but ‘Stute will have been the happier of the two sides.
Dergview - Boggs; Porter, Maxwell, Liggett, Robinson; Dickson, Clarke, A. Lecky, G. Sproule; Higginbotham, D. Lecky (M. Lecky 25); Subs Not Used - Buchanan, Campbell, Kee.
Institute - Doherty; Crown, C. McLaughlin, Crossan, O’Donnell; Henderson, McCauley, Walsh, Carlin (McKeever 68); McCrudden (Varma 80), McFadden; Subs Not Used - Devlin, Reilly, Gartside.
Referee - Lee Tavinder.