INSTITUTE 1 BALLYMENA 2
Ballymena United ended Institute’s slim hopes of avoiding the drop with victory at the Riverside Stadium - a sixth straight loss ensuring Paul Kee’s men make a swift return to the Irish Championship.
A first half Alan Teggert penalty and a Mark Forker own goal in the second either side of Stephen Curry’s header sealed the fate of the Drumahoe men.
The home side did have their chances, however, and Dean Curry really should have equalised with a free header on the hour mark but it wasn’t to be their day.
And with nearest rivals, Warrenpoint Town held to a 1-1 draw at Dungannon Swifts, the result mattered little in the end with Institute nine points adrift at the bottom with two games left.
Institute’s failure to win in 24 league games on the trot gave them little chance of survival and they can have few complaints with their latest defeat.
The Braidmen were presented with a promising chance after just two minutes when Graeme Crown brought down Gary Thompson right on the edge of the penalty area.
From the resultant free-kick, David Cushley drilled a powerful shot narrowly over the crossbar.
‘Stute were causing problems with a series of long punts upfield and when Ballymena failed to clear, Robbie Hume stole a yard on his marker but sliced his left foot strike well wide.
‘Stute were fortunate not to concede from a corner kick on 23 minutes when Teggert’s cross was met by Aaron Walsh but the midfidler’s clearance hit the back of Johnny Taylor and fell safely into the hands of Corey Wilson.
The home lot were dealt another slice of luck four minutes later. Ballymena defender, Jim Ervin tried his luck from distance and his shot almost caught Wilson out when it took a bobble but the keeper gathered at the second attempt.
‘Stute’s luck ran out four minutes before the break when Allan Jenkins was pulled down inside the box by Matty Young and referee, Stephen Taylor immediately pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Teggert who blasted his spotkick into the back of the net to break the deadlock. It was Teggert’s third successful penalty from four scored against ‘Stute this season.
But right on the stroke of half-time Young redeemed himself with a terrific cross and Stephen Curry’s powerful header from the edge of the box found the corner of the net.
With second from bottom, Warrenpoint Town leading 0-1 at Dungannon at the interval, it wasn’t looking good for ‘Stute’s slim survival hopes.
Five minutes after the restart, Mark Forker headed Darren Boyce’s cross into his own net under pressure from Allan Jenkins as Ballymena regained the initiative.
Dean Curry really should have restored parity just after the hour mark when presented with a free header from McCrudden’s free-kick at the back post but he headed back off the post with the goal at his mercy.
Ballymena could have put ‘Stute out of their misery with a third on 78 minutes when substitute, Matthew Shevlin found himself through on goal but his shot was saved well by Wilson. However, Ballymena were good value for the win as ‘Stute faced the dreaded drop.
Institute: Corey WIlson;Stephen Curry, Paddy McLaughlin, Mark Scoltock (Jamie McIntyre 59), Dean Curry; Matty Young (Cormac Burke 88), Aaron Walsh, Mark Forker (Davitt Walsh 59), Graeme Crown; Robbie Hume, Michael McCrudden; Subs Not Used: Peter Bradley, Declan McKeever.
Ballymena Utd: Tim Allen; Tony Kane, Johnny Taylor, Jim Ervin, Steven McBride; Alan Teggert, Allan Jenkins, Matthew Tipton (Eamon McAllister 74), Gary Thompson (Mark Surgenor 82); Darren Boyce, David Cushley (Eamon McAllister 71); Subs Not Used: Kyle McVey, Neal Gawley.
Referee: Stephen Taylor.