‘Stute are hoping to go on a winning run, after picking up their first victory of the season at Dergview last week.
Institute vs. Ballyclare
Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium
Brian Donaghey is hopeful that a poor start to the season is behind his team as they prepare to host Ballyclare at the Brandywell on their first Friday night game of the season.
It has been a difficult two weeks for Donaghey and his players, who faced Premiership opposition twice, losing 7-0 at the Oval to Glentoran in the League Cup, and then 3-2 at Coleraine on Tuesday night, a game which was decided by a Colin McHendry hat trick. In between those losses and perhaps more importantly however, ‘Stute managed to pick up their first league win of the season when they won 3-0 at Dergview last Saturday.
It was a long time in coming for ‘Stute, who had lost seven points from winning positions already this season. But a strong second half showing brought two goals from Jamie Dunne and one from Cormac Burke, giving ‘Stute their first win at the fifth attempt.
“The two teams were afraid to lose,” Donaghey reflected. “It was more like a fact-finding mission; they seen what we had, and we seen what they had. It was quite nervy and no-one really took control. The first half was a non-event but at half time we spoke to the players and told the players if we could go through the gears and go up 20-30%, we could win the game. That’s what happened. Jamie came on and scored and after the first goal it took the heart out of them.”
“It was a really good away victory at a tough ground and speaking to Paddy McLaughlin during the week, he only remembers winning once down there, and I only remember winning once or twice down there myself,” he continued. “It’s a difficult place to go and to put in the second half performance we did and run out comfortable winner, was great. I was delighted for the boys because they probably deserved that victory and it was long coming. We should have had a victory or two in the four games previous, and while we’re not happy where we’re at, we know there are better days ahead.”
The experience of playing against two Premiership opponents did have its advantages, one of which was a senior debut for 15-year-old Oisin Devlin. A great talent, Devlin more than held his own in a game which, Donaghey admits, neither team really wanted.
“Sticking the Northwest Senior Cup in the middle of two league matches over six days is something we didn’t particularly want and, speaking to Coleraine, they didn’t need either,” he said. “It’s maybe something for the fixtures committee or the Northwest Senior Board to look at in the future.
“We had to make six or seven changes and we gave a few young lads their debuts and it was actually a worthwhile exercise. They had four or five first team players and to be fair, Colin McHendry was the difference between the two teams. He stepped up to the plate, had four or five chances, and scored three and that was the difference.”
‘Stute find themselves in the unusual position of playing Friday night football because of the weekend internationals against an opponent which started the season strongly, but have recently slipped up. Ballyclare lost 5-2 at Newington last week and they come to the Brandywell having lost two out of their last three.
“They had a poor result by their standards, going by their start to the season,” Donaghey said. “They will be coming wounded and looking to put things right. Stephen (Small) will be looking for a massive response, while I asked my own players, now that we have the monkey off our back of our first win, can we go on a run, can we get two or three victories in a row? I think if you can do that in this league, because it’s so competitive, you can end up going up three or four places. This league is so unpredictable. Every week there’s a shock and you can will get caught out if you’re not at 80-90%.”
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