03 May 2024

Ballymena United retained their Premiership status with two second half goals against Institute in the Promotion-Relegation Playoff.

The Braidmen trailed 1-0 from the first leg on Tuesday night and took the game to their opponents in the early stages, Johnny McMurray missing a great early chance after 10 minutes.

Institute then went close, when they forced Sean O’Neill into a superb double save with 21 minutes gone.

A resolute Institute side frustrated Ballymena United for much of the game into the second half, but with fifteen minutes left, midfielder Oisin Devlin received his second yellow card which meant the Championship side were reduced to ten men.

Within three minutes, the home side were in front on the night – Steven McCullough stepped up to whip a free-kick on the edge of the box, straight into the top corner.

With the momentum behind them, Ballymena pushed hard for the second goal and it came on 87 minutes when substitute Calvin McCurry capitalised on a mistake in the Institute defence to nip in and make it 2-0.

Both teams finished with ten men, as Daithi McCallion received a straight-red card for a late challenge in stoppage time, but the Braidmen held out for the vital 2-1 aggregate victory sparking scenes of celebration at the Showgrounds.

Ballymena United: O’Neill, Rocks, Whiteside, McCullough, F. Taylor, McMurray, Boyle, Brown, Place, Stewart, McCallion subs Johnston (not used), Gawne (sub Place 68), McGrory (not used), McAuley (not used), Barr (not used), McCurry (sub McMurray 79), Hood (not used).

Institute: Doherty, Porter, Lafferty, Leppard, Mullan, Dunne, King, Carlin, Harris, Devlin, Quigley subs Muldoon (not used), Tweed (sub Carlin 46), McLaughlin (sub Quigley 88), Burke (not used), McGinty (sub Dunne 68), McKinney (sub Lafferty 88), Boyle (sub Harris 77).