INSTITUTE’S Irish Championship title tilt has been anything but plain-sailing this season and last Saturday’s ‘bizarre’ goal-fest at Lakeview Park was as dramatic as manager, Paul Kee has witnessed in quite some time!
The teams collectively rattled the back of the net a total of 10 times and at the end of what was a tense, action-packed encounter, ‘Stute boss Paul Kee was happy to travel back to Drumahoe with a point.
That’s despite the fact the Waterside club surrendered top spot in the league to Carrick Rangers and went into the final seven minutes leading 4-3. However, Kee didn’t envisage his side conceding twice and desperately battling to share the spoils in a frantic finale.
Four minutes into stoppage time and with the last kick of the game, Aaron Walsh took centre stage and scored directly from a corner kick - the second goal which found the target from the corner flag in an unbelievable match.
Upon reflection, Kee was delighted to see his side stretch their unbeaten league run to seven games after a difficult game played on an unusually poor surface.
“I think there must have been something in the air,” said Kee. I haven’t experienced a match like it in a long time.
“I don’t think the pitch or the conditions helped and we have had one or two injury problems which haven’t helped either.
“While we weren’t at our best, at the same time we managed to score five goals,” he added. “Some of the goals we conceded are goals which don’t normally happen but did on Saturday unfortunately.
“We could have lost the game and in previous years we would’ve lost a game like that,” he reflected. “The players made a big effort to get back into it. It was a game we were always chasing.
“So the fact we got a point was probably a good result for us. I would say we will probably be involved in a few more games like this in between now and the end of the season.
“Particularly against teams like the Welders who are formidable opponents at home and the likes of Donegal Celtic as well.
“It keeps our run going and we’re still in the right end of the table. If you can’t win the game you make sure you don’t lose it and that’s what we did.
“With seven minutes to go you’re 4-3 up and you think you’ve got the three points. They score twice and you think ‘my God what’s going on here?’ They kept at it and got a bit of luck that they’ve earned over the period of the season.”
It was a typical Championship match according to Kee and he was delighted with the way his troops dug in and showed great character to get something from the game.
“McCrudden took his goal well in fairness - a cracking free-kick into the top corner for our first goal,” recalled Kee. “Our second goal was from Stephen O’Flynn from a cross and he took it well.
“Then Stephen Curry and Robbie Hume scored before Aaron Walsh scored with more or less the last kick of the day from a corner kick.
“We had went 4-3 up when Robbie Hume put the ball into the net from a corner with seven minutes to go. And you think at that point that you’re going to see it out but there was another three goals to be scored. They scored their fifth goal about two minutes into injury time and you think right that’s it over. However we went straight up the pitch and in fairness to the boys they showed good resolve to score.
“It was a bizarre, freaky game but for a neutral it was a good game. It was a good advert for Championship football on a very, very difficult pitch.
“That was the worst I’ve ever seen that pitch. It’s normally a firm, dry pitch and I know we’ve had a very wet winter, but it’s more or less a bog now.
“It definitely took its toll on our players’ legs, particularly in the last 15 minutes.
“There were players making mistakes who don’t normally make mistakes so a bit of fatigue was setting in at that point on a difficult surface.
“The players never lay down, kept running and there was good enthusiasm. It was a really difficult game for us and a typical Championship match.”
Dundela suffered a surprise 0-1 defeat to Larne on Saturday while Carrick Rangers secured a 0-3 victory over Larne to take top spot.
However, on the evidence of recent results there will be plenty more twists and turns from now until the season’s end.
For Kee, he will turn his attentions to the visit of Ballyclare to the Riverside on Saturday and he’s admitted he will have to give his players plenty of time to get over the exertions of Saturday’s battle.