Down’s senior side contrived to lose this crucial tie against the Senior Two league leaders at Malone Park last weekend.

The home side could have led 4-0 after 10 minutes as they caught the visitors flat-footed with a powerful display of controlled aggression and superb individual play.

Ashley Gibson looked to have given his side the lead in the opening attack, but his reverse stick shot struck the advancing 'keeper on the chest, while Chris Taylor struck the post.

Minutes later, Gibson struck the base of the other post and Gavin Ringland also went close. But Down couldn't find the backboard when it mattered most.

Midfield veteran, Raymond McClurg, was superb against former Irish international, Julian Stevenson, and showed his true value to the side. When he wasn't marking Stevenson, McClurg drove forward intelligently and turned in another faultless display.

Armagh failed to get a single shot on target in the opening half such was the dominance of the home defence of skipper, Jeremy McCready, Aaron Minnis, Chris Lennon and Alasdair Duff, who was making his first appearance of the season for the senior side.

The visitors relied on the quick break as Down surged forward, but the home side couldn't find the backboard. They were awarded a number of penalty corners, but these were not as clinical as they should have been against the league leaders.

Armagh's defence, the meanest in Senior Two, looked anything but in the first half, but it weathered the storm as the defenders tried to adapt to the shale surface.

Goals win matches and while disappointed to go into the interval on level terms, McCready's advice was to keep plugging away and the goals would come.

Down started the second half where they had left off in the first, taking the game to their opponents, but a combination of poor finishing and fine goal keeping kept them at bay.

Down's 'keeper made his first save of the game in the 40th minute, but just over 10 minutes later he was beaten when Armagh took the lead from a short corner that the home side should never have conceded.

The defence had the opportunity to clear the ball, but failed to do so. Thirty seconds later, the visitors were ahead with a shot which the home 'keeper should have saved, despite the fact his view was obstructed by Stephen Ferguson who was attempting to block a forward's shot.

The goal stung Down and before they had a chance to recover they lost possession again. This resulted in an Armagh player having a run in on goal, but he was stick tackled by Chris Lennon and the umpire pointed to the sport.

The stroke was converted, but Down's 'keeper was bitterly disappointed he didn't keep the ball out of the net after he got his stick to it.

With nothing to lose, the home side drove forward and while a number of chances were created, the back of the net was not being found. The home side was also awarded a number of short corners, but it wasted them.

Taylor raced into the penalty area to make it 2-1 with less than two minutes remaining and while Down were awarded two late penalty corners, they made a mess of them, opting for a short passing routine when what they needed was a direct shot on goal.