Down seconds maintained their unbeaten home record with this hard-fought win over a useful Instonians side last weekend at Malone Park.

The win takes their points tally for the season to 17 and, with eight games to go, a mid-table finish in Junior 3 looks to be on the cards.

Depending on how other results went last Saturday, the locals could now be sitting in sixth place, with two games in hand over the teams around them.

Down still have to face Annadale fourths twice, Portadown seconds, Cookstown fourths, Harlequins thirds, Lisnagarvey fourths, Instonians again and Raphoe thirds and they will be hoping to pick up some additional points before the end of the season.

Last Saturday, the locals were missing James Cunningham, Paul Neill and Raymond McClurg, but once again young guns Philip Moreland and David Ferris stood up to be counted, with the latter's energy levels particularly impressive. In addition, Gary Brown was tremendous all afternoon, both in driving forward and dropping back to defend when required.

In what was a tough, uncompromising game, both sides stood toe-to-toe and while it wasn't pretty at times, Down's defenders soaked up everything the Belfast side could throw at them, restricting them to just two shots on goal in each half.

Willie Price and Gary Tate again formed a formidable barrier at the heart of the home defence, while Johnny and Clifford Lennon also defended manfully and drove forward at every opportunity. Johnny Lennon in particular was magnificent, especially in the second half when Price had to leave the field with an injury.

Lennon produced a number of thumping clearances to ease the pressure on the home defence as Instonians surged forward in search of an equaliser in the closing stages.

Ashley Gibson had the first shot on goal in the 11th minute, but his bullet strike from a short corner struck the side board and flew wide. He went close again minutes later and Moreland was also unlucky not to score after some good build-up play involving Gary Brown and Gibson.

Instonians' first shot of the game came via a short corner and their second came from a forward whose powerful run resulted in a strong shot which was saved. Two minutes later and just seconds from the end of the half, Down took the lead, scoring what proved to be the only goal of the game.

The ball worked its way to Gibson on the left hand side of the penalty area and he controlled it an instant before drilling a shot on the half-volley into the corner of the net for a brilliant goal and one that would have graced any senior game.

Instonians pressed further forward in the second half and Down were forced to defend in numbers, but they also had time to create a few chances of their own. Moreland again went close as did Gibson.

At the other end, Instonians thought they should have been awarded a penalty stroke, but their claims were waved a way. They also won a number of short corners, but couldn't get a shot in on goal. On the one occasion a substitute did get a shot on target, it was saved.

Down could have hit the panic button in the closing stages, but they didn't and kept their composure. Clifford Lennon heaved a huge sigh of relief in the dying seconds of the game when he needlessly conceded possession, but Instonians failed to make the most of the opportunity.

Down were delighted at the end of a tough game against a very experienced side which was  sitting just above them in the league before the start of play. One goal was always going to win this one and the home side was delighted when Gibson produced the goods when it mattered.