Down seconds came within a whisker of forcing this Irish Junior Cup tie to be decided in extra time.

Johnny Lennon almost grabbed a dramatic last-gasp equaliser and given his side's second half performance, it was nothing more than they would have deserved.

Paul Neill won the man-of-the-match award by a country mile after a brilliant second half performance and the locals can take great heart from their display against a side which plays in a league above them.

Once again Down were penalised for their inability to put the ball in the back of the net and what they wouldn't give for a forward who would bag them a hatful of goals.

All season, Down have been creating numerous chances, but they are struggling to convert their superiority into goals. While they created just a few last weekend, Chris Ferguson had two glorious opportunities to score at crucial times in the game.

One in the first half would have levelled the scores at 1-1 while one in the second would have levelled things at 2-2 and almost certainly have forced extra time.

Down started with Trevor and Raymond McClurg alongside James Cunningham in midfield, but South Antrim always appeared to have extra men.

They injected a lot of pace into the game and created the first opportunity when Mark Bell picked out Alan Hamilton who was denied by the home 'keeper. Neill, who had started at centre-forward, was forced to drop deep at times to pick up possession, while Adam McKee was causing problems with his trickery on the wing.

Willie Price and Gary Tate kept things tight at the back, but it was the visitors who opened the scoring in the 16th minute from a short corner. While the initial shot was blocked, Down's 'keeper attempted to clear the ball with his stick, but it spun back towards goal where it was put into the net by a forward, despite a high challenge on Raymond McClurg.

Ten minutes later, Down conceded possession and an unmarked forward slipped the ball into the net. Incredibly, apart from one effort in the second period, that was South Antrim's last shot on goal.

The visitors also failed to force a short corner in the second period as the home side kept its shape and things very tight at the back.

Down rallied a little before the break and were disappointed to go into the interval a goal in arrears. A tactical switch saw Neill drip deeper for the second half and he was a revelation.

Not only did he get his side back into the tie with a great goal from a short corner, but he ran, harried and chased, covering large parts of the pitch. Cunningham went close with a half chance before Ferguson found himself unmarked in the centre of the goal when Cunningham picked him out.

The teenager didn't realise he had time to control the ball before drilling it past the 'keeper and failed to make contact with his attempted first time effort.

The visitors did catch Down on the break in the closing stages, but a combination of Price and the 'keeper denied a forward who really should have scored. Then came that late Lennon effort which saw the ball pin past the wrong side of the post with the 'keeper flat-footed.

This week Down face Bangor fourths and will be keen to take at least a point from this Junior 3 game.