Institute battle hard to share the spoils with Ballymena United

Institute's Aaron McGurk, who scored his first senior goal, shields the ball from Ballymena United skipper Jim Ervin
Institute's Aaron McGurk, who scored his first senior goal, shields the ball from Ballymena United skipper Jim Ervin

Institute 1, Ballymena United 1

Institute for the second game running rolled the sleeves up and made it two games unbeaten after a deserved point against Ballymena United.

The Braidmen had the better clear cut chances but the Drumahoe side worked their socks off, particularly in defence and but for a goalkeeping mistake by Rory Brown, they may have kept a clean-sheet and won the game.

Sean Connor decided to make two changes from his Institute side which won the basement battle at Warrenpoint Town last weekend, with goalkeeper Brown and winger Gareth Brown replacing duo Paul Wells and Cormac Burke, who both dropped to the bench.

As for Ballymena they decided to bring in Kofi Balmer for ex-Derry City defender Scott Whiteside, who dropped to the bench, as boss David Jeffrey was looking to follow-up last week's come-back win over Cliftonville, with another three points.

United were inches away from taking a eighth minute lead as Caoimhin Bonner's poor clearance only fell to Ryan Mayse, but the striker's close range shot was deflected wide by 'Stute's sliding centre-back Conor Tourish.

Mayse missed a sitter on 14 minutes as Balmer's pin-point centre from the right found the striker, but with only Brown to beat, he headed wide with the goal at his mercy.

Those missed chances came to back haunt the visitors as 'Stute took the lead on 19 minutes as youngster Aaron McGurk, showed neat feet on the edge of the box to create himself some space, before lifting the ball high past Ross Glendinning.

Ballymena had a super opportunity to level things just after the half-hour mark as Declan Carville's clever knock-down found Mayse but the striker's shot from 10 yards was deflected wide by Tourish.

Just before the break Carville should have levelled things, as that man Mayse picked out his strike partner, but his close range header flashed just past Brown's right hand post.

With virtually the last kick of the half, Jude Winchester tested Brown, but his 20 yard strike was easily held by the 'Stute keeper.

United wing back Steven McCullough went close to levelling things on 58 minutes, but his left footed strike, which had Brown scrambling, flew just wide.

Institute were denied a second on the counter attack on 64 minutes as some neat passing ended with Joe McCready, shielding the ball away from Jim Ervin, before seeing his shot on the turn saved by a diving Glendinning.

United deservedly equalised six minutes later after McCullough’s right wing corner was curled into the near post and defender Jonathan Addis just jumped in front of Brown, to head home from close range.

On 82 minutes Glendinning was called into action, when at the second attempt, he kept out McCready's curling 25 yard free-kick.

McCready nearly nicked the win for the home side in the closing stages but his long pile driver was superbly tipped over by a full stretched Glendinning.

Institute: Brown, Crown, Bonner, Tourish, D Curry; McNamee (Burke 54), Grace, McCauley (B McLaughlin 90), Brown (C McLaughlin 79); McGurk; McCready.

Ballymena United: Glendinning, Addis, Ervin, Balmer; McGrory, Millar, Winchester (McGinty 80), Kelly, McCullough; Mayse (Kane 87), Carville.

Referee: Shane Andrews (Comber).