While the scoreline of this Senior One clash suggests an easy win for Antrim, it was anything but.

Down could and should have been two goals ahead after a blistering start to the game which forced Antrim to defend in numbers against a side currently propping up the table and fighting for its life.

Stephen Ferguson, Chris Taylor and Paul Tate all should have scored when well placed as Antrim, who have blown hot and cold this season, started slowly.

Once again Down's policy of going on the attack had the desired effect but, unfortunately, they couldn't convert those early chances which proved extremely costly in the final analysis.

Ferguson couldn't get on the end of a powerful cross which found him unmarked at the back post and the same player failed to capitalise on a rebound off the 'keeper's pads after a reverse stick shot by Gavin Ringland. Taylor then looked well-placed to score, but he was forced to hurry his shot and the opportunity was gone.

Three minutes later, Antrim opened the scoring through Ian Brownlees and Ferguson then went close for Down at the other end before the visitors made the locals pay for their inability to convert their chances by making it 2-0 just before the break when Stuart McIlroy scored.

Down, who were disappointed with the half time score, were keen to get back on level terms in the second half and once again they set out their stall by going on the attack. But it was Antrim who made it 3-0 after being awarded a penalty stroke.

An Antrim forward was sandwiched by two Down defenders as he was about to unleash a shot and the umpire had no hesitation pointing to the spot. Up stepped Lloyd Kane to place the ball wide of Mark Johnston.

Mark Elliott gave the locals a glimmer of hope when he made it 4-1. A Sinclair White effort was half-stopped by the Antrim 'keeper and with the visiting defenders guilty of ball-watching, Elliott reacted quickest to fire the ball home.

Incredibly, Down then contrived to miss another two gilt-edged opportunities, which if they'd been converted, would have hauled themselves right back into contention.

Ferguson again was in the right place at the right time, but failed to score, while Taylor also missed when he only had the 'keeper to beat.

The let-offs inspired Antrim who went on to score two late goals to leave them with a flattering scoreline. Ian Creighton made it 4-1 when he picked his spot past Johnston and then McIlroy made it 5-1.

Over the past few weeks, Down's deliberate ploy of going on the attack has worked to the extent that it has caught their opponents on the hop. They have also created a number of superb scoring opportunities, but they have failed to put the ball in the back of the net.

This Saturday, Down face their biggest game of the season when they travel to face fellow strugglers, Ballynahinch. A win for either side is vital and defeat is simply not on the agenda as far as either side is concerned. There is so much at stake an a draw isn't any good for either club.

Three points this weekend could just tip the balance in the favour of the victors to see off Cliftonville to retain their Senior One status. This Saturday's game may not be one for the purists, but the players have to stand up and be counted in the heat of battle.

Realistically, Down and Ballynahinch have to hope they can pick up more points than Cliftonville between now and the end of the season to preserve their Senior One status. Even at this stage, relegation to Senior Two is simply not on the radar.