Despite the last day 1-0 defeat at Ballyclare Comrades, things still worked out perfectly for Institute, but only just.
The Drumahoe club by the skin of their teeth booked their place in the promotion play-off spot against Ballinamallard United, thanks to a Darius Roohi’s single goal for Lisburn Distillery.
The youngster’s late consolation goal in their 6-1 defeat at Larne, meant that the Waterside out-fit by virtue of one goal better secured the play-off spot ahead of the Inver Park men.
Kevin Deery certainly had one eye on Monday night’s Intermediate Cup Final against Ards as he made a few changes to his line-up.
Experienced players Marty Gallagher, Mark Scoltock and Shane McGinty weren’t in the starting line-up, in fact the latter two didn’t even make the match day squad.
Youngster Callum Moorhead was given his first start, while Stephen Mills and Michael Lynch also started for the first time in a number of weeks.
The home side were nearly gifted a goal inside the first minute when Stephen O’Donnell’s back pass to Lynch was well short, but Chris Trussell’s shot from just inside the box was well off target.
Another chance for Trussell on 30 minutes came this time as Michael O’Hanlon’s left wing centre was punched away by Lynch, but the loose ball was headed wide by the big striker.
The deadlock was broke six minutes later when Jason Johnstone’s snap-shot from just inside the box caught out Lynch and found the keeper’s bottom left hand corner.
The home side went close to doubling their lead early in the second half but after getting in behind the Stute defence Gary Brown, saw his close range shot saved by the out-rushing Lynch.
Incredibly Comrades had another glorious chance on 52 minutes when O’Hanlon’s header back into the six yard box fell perfectly to Trussell, but his left footed volley from 10 yards flashed wide.
On 80 minutes Institute had their first shot on target as Niall Grace’s 20 yard strike out of nothing, was well saved by Patrick Flood, the keeper diving at full stretch to keep it out.
As the visitors continued to push forward looking for a goal Jamie Dunne got clear down the left but his cross-cum-shot was pushed around the post by Flood.
After Dunne’s effort, neither side created much and when the final whistle blew, everyone involved in Stute including supporters (and me), were on their mobile phones refreshing twitter to get a full-time score from Inver Park.
The moment word came through that Stute had secured a play-off place, there wasn’t any celebrations it was just a case of relief and the players heads switched onto what will be a big few weeks for the club.
Ballyclare Comrades: Flood, Woods, Shannon, McQuitty, McCart, McCullough, O’Hanlon, Dobbin, Trussell, Johnstone, Brown (Haskins 65).
Institute: Lynch, Jarvis, O’Donnell, McDermott, Hume (Morrow 75); C Harkin, Grace, McCrudden; Dunne, Mills (Brown 58), Moorhead (McIntyre 58).