Benny McLaughlin has been ‘Stute’s biggest goal threat this season.
Institute vs. Ballyclare Comrades - Brandywell - Saturday, 3pm
Brian Donaghey has targeted 40 points to keep Institute safe this season, and is in no doubt that his team can make it happen.
Institute have been on exceptional form of late, destroying second-placed Annagh 5-1 at the Brandywell before beating Knockbreda 3-2 in a real six-pointer at the foot of the Lough 41 Championship.
From the low of the home defeat to Queen’s just last month, this young ‘Stute squad have bounced back quite spectacularly, and have their fate very much in their own hands heading into the first game of the split against Ballyclare Comrades.
“We’ve always felt that 40 points will keep us out of the bottom to places and I don’t think that will change,” Donaghey explained.
“Three wins out of five definitely keeps us safe, but we’re going to target winning every game, there’s no doubt about that. We have two home games then three difficult away games so I would like to get the points on board as early as possible and that might take pressure off everyone, and we could eventually relax.
“This could still go to the wire however, and it could go to the Knockbreda game on the last day, but we’re prepared for anything. The lads are in a good vein of form, they are feeling good about themselves and there’s a good buzz around the place and we’re looking forward to Saturday.”
There is undoubtedly an abundance of ability in the Institute squad, which, when mixed with confidence, can produce impressive results as the last few weeks have shown. For Donaghey it is about fine-tuning the balance between ability and mindset to produce more consistent performances in the last few weeks of the season.
“The Annagh and Knockbreda games have given them a lot of confidence,” he admitted.
“The Knockbreda game was probably the better of the two for me because we did something that we don’t do too often, and that’s grind out a result and be hard to beat, whereas the week before we were really free-flowing and that was probably our best performance at the Brandywell.
“It can be frustrating as the manager and for the staff because we see how good we can be and we get it together we will definitely get points on the board.
"Obviously we have a self-destruct button which isn’t something that I am proud of, but it’s there and it actually drives me on, and makes me keep them on their toes. The Queen’s game was only three weeks ago so we have to banish those types of performances and if we do and play the way we’ve played in the last few weeks then I’m confident that we can get enough points.”
While defender Jay Riley has suffered an ankle injury which will likely keep him out for the remainder of the season, there is an overall feeling of optimism at the club at present, which will only strengthen with a win over Ballyclare at the Brandywell, an opponent ‘Stute defeated back in January thanks to goals from Benny McLaughlin and Mark McFadden.
“It’s three points and we will be fighting for them and if we win on Saturday we move to within once point of them and we drag them into a dogfight,” Donaghey added.
“They aren’t on a great run but they have got quality in their squad, they have a lot of senior players and a lot of good young players. We beat them up there the last time we played so they will be looking for a bit of revenge maybe. You can’t take anyone lightly in this league. Week after week there will be strange results in this league and two or three of the top six in the form table are bottom six clubs, so that tells you everything.”
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