Malone Park used to be the Anfield of the hockey world, but not, it would seem, any more.

Down have struggled on the shale surface all season and ironically are now more at home on the astro-surface. They reserved their worst performance of the season last Saturday for the visit of derby rivals Crossgar, who could have stolen all three points near the end.

The win would have been Crossgar's first over their rivals since cat was pussy, but despite getting out of jail with a draw, Down will not be "feline" fine. In fact, they need to get their act together to finish as high up the league as possible and for the visit of Newry seconds this Saturday in a McClements Cup tie.

Crossgar turned in their usual battling performance and if Down possessed just a fraction of their never-say-die attitude, it would stand them in good stead over the remainder of the season.

Down can point to the fact the Crossgar's equaliser came from a penalty corner that should not have been awarded and that Paul Tate's strike should have been saved by the home 'keeper.

In addition, Down were denied what they thought was a cast-iron penalty stroke near the end of the second half when Stephen Ferguson was cut down in the Crossgar penalty area. For reasons best known to himself, the umpire refused to point to the spot.

Down were missing Paul Neill and Ashley Gibson, while Crossgar had to make do without the services of the suspended Nigel Jackson.

An injury early in the game forced Paul Tate to hobble along the Down front line and made little contribution to the game, apart from scoring the equaliser.

It was all one-way traffic in the first half as far as scoring opportunities were concerned. Chris Taylor should have scored early on, as should Ferguson and Gavin Ringland saw his close-range effort canon off the chest of Crossgar 'keeper, Ross Smyth.

In a surprisingly mild-mannered affair, Willie Price and Aaron Minnis were outstanding at the heart of the home defence, but Down's midfield was poor and the forwards were non-existent, largely due to the performances of Gary Tate and Gary Donaldson.

Down took the lead midway through the half when Ferguson popped up at the back post to collect a cross from Trevor McClurg which he swept into the net. The ball struck the back stanchion before rebounding back out, hitting the crossbar, bouncing on the line before it was cleared. There was no doubt it was a goal, but Crossgar objected anyway.

The home side expected a Crossgar onslaught after the break, but it took a while to arrive. Sinclair White, Trevor Jackson and Mervyn Donaldson pushed further forward to support Gareth Lennon, a move which caused Down to panic in the middle of the park and not pick up their men.

Down's normally fluid passing game was non-existent and after the Crossgar equaliser, Down's 'keeper half-stopped a flicked effort by Tate, with Price completing the clearance by whipping the ball off the line.

Taylor and Ringland both went close in the final minutes, but once again, Down failed to impress against their derby rivals. On goal chances alone, the home side should have had the game sewn up at the interval, but true to form, missed some golden opportunities.

Crossgar made the most of the blanks by roaring back into the game, equalising and coming agonisingly close to grabbing maximum points at the end.