Institute 1
Ballymena United 0
Promotion-Relegation Playoff (Leg 1)


1 - 0

Ballymena United

Promotion-Relegation Playoff (Leg 1)
Tuesday, April 30th, 2024
Brandywell Stadium
7:45 PM Kick-off

Daniel Lafferty (58) None.

Team Managers
Kevin Deery Jim Ervin

Starting Eleven
1. Fintan Doherty
2. Caoimhin Porter
3. Daniel Lafferty
4. Shaun Leppard
8. Liam Mullan
11. Jamie Dunne
14. Dylan King
16. Sean Carlin
17. Michael Harris
18. Oisin Devlin
22. Conor Quigley
Sean O'Neill .1
Sean Brown .29
Daithi McCallion .39
Steven McCullough .11
Scot Whiteside .5
Brendan Barr .35
Dylan Boyle .28
Fraser Taylor .16
Alex Gawne .7
Calvin McCurry .36
Noah Stewart .33

21. Gareth Muldoon
6. Evan Tweed
7. Orrin McLaughlin
10. Cormac Burke
12. Shane McGinty
15. Tiarnan McKinney
20. Shane Boyle
Sam Johnston .26
Shea McAuley .32
James Hood .41
Andrew McGrory .17
Michael Place .30
Donal Rocks .4
Jonathan McMurray .27

Evan Tweed for Caoimhin Porter (80)
Shane McGinty for Sean Carlin (83)
Orrin McLaughlin for Jamie Dunne (89)
Cormac Burke for Daniel Lafferty (89)
Donal Rocks for Brendan Barr (61)
Michael Place for Alex Gawne (77)
Jonathan McMurray for Calvin McCurry (83)

Fintan Doherty (90) Fraser Taylor (60)
Alex Gawne (64)
Jonathan McMurray (87)

Red Cards
None. None.

Match Officials

Evan Boyce (Referee)
Gavin Hegarty & Shane Geary (Assistants)
Mark Dillon (Fourth Official)

Match Report

Ballymena United have it all to do in the second leg of their SportsDirect Premiership relegation play-off after falling to a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Institute in the first leg at The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium on Tuesday night.

After resting the majority of his starting squad in the final league game of the season on Saturday, Jim Ervin reverted back to an expected starting XI with no surprises for the trip to Londonderry in the first of two huge games in four days.

With United in the higher league, but Stute with home advantage, it was perhaps difficult to tell who would come out the quicker, but it was the visitors who started by far the better. After an opening ten minutes of all possession but no real chances, the Braidmen struck the woodwork when Fraser Taylor's long range strike took a slight deflection before hitting the inside of the post, with the ball then agonisingly rolling across the goal line and past the other post. As the Sky Blues continued to press, the hosts more than happy to soak up the pressure, Scot Whiteside couldn't get enough on a header to trouble Fintan Doherty in the Stute goal, before Noah Stewart did really well to fend off a number of Institute bodies in the box, before firing straight at Doherty from the tightest of angles.

On twenty-nine minutes, having rarely ventured out of their own half, the hosts almost stunned the Premiership side with what would have been a wondergoal when Caoimhin Porter let fly from a mile out, and it looked destined for the top corner the whole way until a slight dip late on brought it back towards Sean O'Neill, who still had to make a top drawer save. That chance seemed to just take the sting out of United's tail a bit and whilst they still controlled much of the play, including seeing two penalty appeals waved away, they were almost hit with the sucker punch of all sucker punches in first half added time. A cross in from the left found Jamie Dunne unmarked at the back post, but luckily he didn't really catch his strike cleanly when otherwise he surely would've scored, allowing Whiteside to head clear. However, his clearance fell to Porter who then saw his shot deflect narrowly wide off Steven McCullough, as United went into half time probably slightly disappointed not to have turned their dominance into chances or goals.

The second half turned out to be a much different affair to the first as from minute one United never got going. The first ten minutes was all Institute, for the first time all night, and on fifty-eight minutes a sensational strike put the home side ahead, which seemed unlikely in the first half, but was coming in the second. It all came from a lung busting run from Michael Harris from well inside his own half, though he perhaps should've been stopped before he got so far, and when he found Dunne who then teed up Daniel Lafferty, who had more than enough space to line up a shot from twenty-five yards, he rifled home a stunning strike into the top corner.

Just before the former Northern Ireland international had lit up a nervy affair, Ballymena felt they definitely should've had a penalty this time when a cross from Sean Brown appeared to strike the arm of Porter, but in keeping with most of the rest of the opening leg, referee Evan Boyce was unmoved.

Despite almost levelling instantly when Brown's low ball across goal missed Calvin McCurry by inches as he came sliding in, Lafferty's goal was proof United had lost their way since the restart, with countless long balls getting them nowhere against a tall and robust Institute back line. Heading into the final fifteen minutes, Ballymena were continuing to make little headway with very little working, and Institute, whilst now seeing less of the ball, looked a threat when they did go forward, and a second goal would've gave the away side huge problems.

In the final ten minutes, the Braidmen finally began to get some joy in the second half as they looked to take at least a draw back up the road. Stewart saw a glancing header never really worry the Stute goal, before a McCullough cross was just too deep for Taylor and sub Mikey Place at the back post. Then, at the very beginning of seven minutes added on, somehow United didn't get themselves level. Place's cross from the right to the back stick was met by McCullough who came sliding in but saw his shot cleared on the line, before Oisin Devlin then blocked a poke goalwards by Stewart after a spell of pinball in the six-yard box. Ballymena continued to come at the holding on hosts, but didn't really threaten again bar a shot from Brown that was easily saved, before a coming together between late sub McMurray and 'keeper Doherty sparked a mass brawl and killed any momentum, as a decent first half with little end product was met by a thoroughly disappointing second, to leave Ballymena with plenty of work to do on a massive night at The Showgrounds on Friday night to preserve their top flight status.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (

Squad Statistics (as at April 30th, 2024)

2023-2024 All Time
Sean O'Neill (GK)36 40 - 103 -
Sean Brown19 16 - 16 -
Daithi McCallion19 11 - 11 -
Steven McCullough29 40324911
Scot Whiteside26 3511332
Brendan Barr22 11 - 48 -
Dylan Boyle22 33 - 33 -
Fraser Taylor21 424424
Alex Gawne22 243243
Calvin McCurry22 142142
Noah Stewart20 30103010
Donal Rocks (sub)23 30 - 30 -
Michael Place (sub)26 372978
Jonathan McMurray (sub)29 31412936

League Table (as at April 30th, 2024)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Larne 38 27 9 2 90
2. Linfield 38 26 7 5 85
3. Cliftonville 38 23 6 9 75
4. Crusaders 38 19 7 12 64
5. Glentoran 38 17 9 12 60
6. Carrick 38 15 5 18 50
7. Dungannon 38 13 8 17 47
8. Coleraine 38 12 10 16 46
9. Loughgall 38 13 6 19 45
10. Glenavon 38 11 4 23 37
11. BALLYMENA 38 8 4 26 28
12. Newry 38 4 5 29 17