Portrush staged the perfect smash and grab raid at Malone Park last Saturday to ease into the semi-finals of the Senior Two Cup.

Down only have themselves to blame for their surprising exit and could have ended up losing by an even bigger margin, had not been for the performance of their 'keeper.

The locals went into the game missing a number of regulars, but their absence cannot be used as an excuse for not progressing to the next round of a competition won last year by Ballynahinch.

Down created a bagful of golden opportunities in the first half, but they couldn't put the ball in the net. They were guilty of rushing their shots when there was time to pick their spot and panicking when goal opportunities did present themselves.

Ashley Gibson went close in the opening minutes after good work by Raymond McClurg and Chris Taylor, while Taylor himself and Gavin Ringland also went close.

At the other end, Wallace McKeemin, who ended up with a double on the day, thought he had given his side the lead in the 18th minute when all he had to do was tap the ball into an empty net. But Down's 'keeper somehow managed to to get to his shot with his stick to deflect it away from danger.

Down's big-game players did not perform on the day and the exertions of last weekend's junior inter-provincials took their toll on Taylor who lacked his normal fluidity and penetrating runs.

McClurg was left to do the donkey work in the middle of the park, but he was powerless to stop the visitors seizing the upper hand as the game progressed.

Down's 'keeper made another important save 10 minutes before the break and the Gibson couldn't believe his eyes at the other end when his goal-bound shot flew agonisingly wide.

The home side began the second half in search of goals, but although they enjoyed large periods of possession, they simply couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. It was just one of those days when nothing went right in front of goal.

Down's 'keeper made a double save to deny McKeemin and from the resultant short corner, he also made a block at his near post, but the ball rebounded to the Portrush striker who swept it over the line.

With nothing to lose, Down literally swamped the Portrush defence, leaving only Chris and Johnny Lennon at the back. The move saw the home side enjoy lots of possession, but perhaps there were just too many players in the penalty area.

Portrush and McKeemin scored their second goal of the afternoon in the 55th minute and there was no way back for the home side.

They tried to score late goals to force the tie into extra time, but Portrush held on to secure a place in the semi-finals.

This Saturday, Down face derby rivals Saintfield in their penultimate game of the season.