stute dig deep at knockbreda

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INSTITUTE lost further ground at the top of the Irish Championship table after they were held to a third successive league draw.

And yet there will be no alarm bells ringing just yet for ‘Stute boss, Paul Kee who can be satisfied with the character shown by his side as they battled back against the Belfast men on Saturday night.

Admittedly, Kee was both frustrated and disappointed with the lacklustre start his team made to the game but he was delighted with the second half response.

Facing a 2-0 deficit after two first half penalties, Stephen Parkhouse hit back with his first goal of the season before Michael McCrudden’s penalty with seven minutes to go salvaged an important point to keep intact the club’s unbeaten start to the campaign.

So while Dundela stretched their lead at the top to six points with victory over Larne at Inver Park, ‘Stute are still well poised in the race for the title.

And Kee is happy with the progress being made.

“To go away from home to a place where a few teams will struggle has to be considered a good point for us.

“It’s not all bad,” he added. “We haven’t won in our last three games and while we’re unbeaten it’s the points on the board that you want.

“It’s still early in the season. “We’ve four or five big games coming up so after those fixtures we can evaluate where we’re at.

“It’s a very competitive league. There’s a lot of intensity and high energy and we have to match that level of commitment and physicality.

“The players have come together and are making bigger efforts for the cause and that’s pleasing.

“Credit to them for coming back into it and that’s something we can build on going into the H&W Welders game.

“Teams have got away from us in the last couple of seasons but we can only concentrate on ourselves.

“In fairness to Dundela they have hit a fantastic bit of form and deserve to be on top.

“They’re winning every game so you have to take your hat off to them.”

Kee will be anxious to cut out the mistakes at the back as they gave themselves a mountain to climb when conceding two penalties in the first half.

“We didn’t do ourselves any favours by giving away two soft goals without them having to do too much for it,” continued Kee.

“The first one we were a bit careless in our build-up play and gave the ball away.

“Gary Henderson had to make a tackle and gave away a penalty.

“And their second goal was totally unacceptable.

“Michael Doherty cleared the ball and then had an altercation with the boy who went in and challenged him and the referee then awards them a penalty.

“It was a bit of a strange decision and I wasn’t too pleased with Michael for getting involved in something he shouldn’t have.

“So right on the stroke of half-time we’re 2-0 down and we had to dig deep and in fairness they did that.

“In the last three or four games the problem has been teams have matched us and we seem to think we have this right to turn up and play and not work hard enough.

“Offensively we haven’t had the same form we showed earlier in the season and that’s because there is one or two players out of sorts and one or two coming back from injury.

“So it’s a case of a work in progress.

“I can’t complain too much because we could have won it on Saturday. “We were pushing on and they didn’t really have any attacks of note in the second half.

Knockbreda couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game despite playing without a recognised ‘keeper and they led at the break after two James Wright penalties.

He grabbed his first after 33 minutes when Henderson brought down Matthew Johnston.

And it was 2-0 10 minutes later following a Michael Doherty challenge on Miguel Chines with Wright again converting from the spot.

‘Stute pulled a goal back on 61 minutes after Parkhouse calmly connected with a cross from the left to beat ‘keeper Steven Hislop.

Knockbreda continued to defend their lead until the 83rd minute when Hislop conceded what was the third penalty of the game for a push with McCrudden successfully firing home to earn a point for the visitors.