Institute 2, Limavady United 0
INSTITUTE clinched automatic promotion to the Irish Premiership for the first time since 2008 after a dramatic final day of the season at Riverside Stadium.
The Drumahoe men strolled to a comfortable victory over North West rivals Limavady and when the final whistle went attention turned to Bangor’s clash with Harland & Wolff Welders at Clandeboye Park as the players waited patiently on the pitch.
And Welders fought back from a 1-0 deficit to secure a share of the spoils which proved enough to see ‘Stute make that long awaited and fully deserved return to top flight football.
There was little to seperate the sides in the opening stages with neither side creating a clear cut scoring chance. ‘Stute then suffered a huge blow when captain, Paddy McLaughlin fell to the ground clutching his hamstring after clearing the ball.
The influential centre-half was carried off the pitch as his afternoon contribution came to a premature end. However, his replacement O’Donnell made an instant impact as his clinical header from a Declan McKeever free-kick on the half hour mark put the home lot into the lead to steady any nerves.
And the club’s leading goalscorer, McCrudden netted his 16th strike of the campaign, as he shrugged off the attentions of Blaine Morrison inside the penalty area before finishing a darting run with a bullet-like strike into the far corner.
Aaron Walsh then came close to adding a third for ‘Stute with a well executed strike which curled narrowly over the crossbar.
The nail-biting race for the title then took a turn for the worse for ‘Stute as Bangor took the lead at Clandeboye Park against Harland & Wolff through Jordan Forsythe just before the interval to swing the race back into their hands with 45 minutes of the season to go.
Institute pressed at the start of the second half and Stephen O’Flynn should’ve done better when he got onto the end of McKeever’s cross but he headed over the bar from four yards.
Limavady keeper, Corey Wilson - on loan from ‘Stute - saved twice in the space of as many minutes from Ryan Varma as Limavady soaked up the pressure.
And midway through the second half Josh Cahoon netted an equaliser for Welders at Bangor and as it stood ‘Stute were top of the table. When news filtered through to the Institute support it was greeted with the biggest cheer of the afternoon.
Back at the Riverside and Wilson needed to be at his best to deny Robbie Hume’s strike from distance but there was no doubting which way this clash was going to finish as ‘Stute remained comfortably ahead.
And so it finished 2-0 in Drumahoe and there was anxious wait for the final whistle at Bangor. And when the result petered through there was scenes of joyous celebration as ‘Stute claimed promotion without the need for a play-off. Remarkable scenes!
Institute: Michael Doherty; Graham Crown, John Curran, Paddy McLaughlin (Stephen O’Donnell 28), Declan McKeever; Darren McCauley (Stephen Curry 73), Aaron Walsh, Ryan Varma, Michael McCrudden; Stephen O’Flynn (Stephen O’Flynn 73), Stephen Parkhouse; Subs Not Used - Martin Gallagher, Colm McLaughlin.
Limavady United: Corey Wilson; Peter Lynch, Mark Scoltock, Stewart McMullan, Bryan McClelland (Daibhibd McIvor 76); Blaine Morrison, Hugh Carlin, Gary McFadden, Lee Harkin 9Corey McMullan 63); Jordan Thompson (Aaron Mullan 81), Jack Heaney.
Referee - Wesley Campbell (Augher).