Relegated Down were left wondering what might have been after this 11-goal thriller last Friday night.

Had Ballynahinch not defeated Cliftonville two weeks ago, this win would almost certainly have forced a relegation play-off with their derby rivals, but it wasn't to be.

Down, who have been guilty of not scoring enough goals this season due to a lack of firepower up front, threw caution to the wind in their final Senior One match, recording only their second win of the season.

Defenders and attackers swapped positions for Friday night's gane and the move worked with Down leading 5-1 at the interval.

One of the main reasons for the huge halftime advantage was the no-nonsense approach adopted by Gavin Ringland and Jeremy McCready who played as out and out strikers. They showed how it should be done in front of goal and while Down should bounce straight back into Senior One in a year's time, they are going to have to address their lack of firepower.

Too often this season Down have played well and they created lots of chances, even against the top teams, their inability to find the back of the net proved costly in the final analysis. Down will also look back on their two games against Ballynahinch which saw their derby rivals claim four points and admit the performances in these two games sealed their fate.

With no pressure on the locals last Friday night they played with freedom and were well worth their 5-1 lead. They were clinical in front of goal, comfortable in the middle of the park and a tightly-knit unit in defence.

If Cliftonville had been expecting an easy game they soon realised they were in for a tough night. McCready hit the post in the first minute with a rasping shot before the ball rebounded to safety and the early strike was certainly a sign of things to come.

Two minutes later, Down took the lead in the third minute through Gavin Ringland with a ferocious reverse stick after some terrific build-up play involving Stephen Ferguson. Nine minutes later, McCready, the sweeper turned striker, scored the first of his four goals on the night.

His first came after he collected a pass from Paul Tate and made his way into the penalty area to crash an unstoppable shot past the 'keeper.

David Cromwell replied for the visitors from a short corner before Down increased their lead, scoring three more goals before the break.

McCready, who could do nothing wrong, lobbed the 'keeper to make it 3-1 in the 20th minute and completed his hat-trick five minutes later with his wicked shot going in off the 'keeper after a slick build-up involving Sinclair White who picked out his skipper with a precision pass which flat-footed the Cliftonville defence.

Paul Tate, who was brilliant on the night, then made it 5-1 after a scintillating run from deep inside his own half. He ghosted past a number of defenders before drawing the 'keeper off his line and rolling the ball into the net.

Down were superb in the first half and while they scored five goals, Gary Tate, James Erskine, Mark Elliott and Chris Lennon were superb in the Down defence, with 'keeper Philip Brown also making important saves.

Shellshocked Cliftonville piled men forward in the second half to restore some pride and Johnny Rose scored in the 42nd minute to make it 5-2, providing his side with just a glimmer of hope. An initial flick from a short corner was saved by Brown, but there was no one sweeping the pads and Rose followed up.

Two minutes later, McVitty made it 5-3 before Cromwell scored his second of the game to leave the visitors trailing by just a single goal after he was allowed to virtually walk into the penalty area unchallenged to fire home.

It was a nervous time for the visitors and Gary Tate then cleared a goal-bound shot off the line before Rose then scored his second goal to level things at 5-5 in the 52nd minute with a ferocious shot on the half volley.

Cliftonville then had a playuer red carded before McCready ensured what was only his side's second win of the season when he beat the 'keeper with just five minutes to go.

Adam McKee and Paul Tate were involved in the build-up and when the ball found its way to McCready, his miss-hit shot bobbled under the 'keeper into the net.

Down now have to rebuild for next season; they can win the Senior Two title race at a canter, but need to strengthen the squad ahead of any return to Senior One. A striker is a priority, along with additional defensive cover.