Cliftonville proved why they are red hot favourites to go straight back up to Senior One with a powerful performance against Down last weekend.

The sides met recently in a Sussex Regiment Cup tie at Malone Park, but SaturdayÕs Senior Two tie in Belfast was a totally different affair, with the home side dominating the game.

The hosts scored seven goals, but the margin of victory would have been significantly higher had it not been for a superb performance in goal by Down skipper Jeremy McCready.

Down started well and the young players included in the starting eleven did not look out of place and showed they will soon be regulars for the senior side.

The game was scoreless after 30 minutes and while Cliftonville were superior, they came up against a resolute Down defence with young James Ferguson again outstanding. He is an intelligent player and in addition to being a tenacious tackler, he reads the game very well and his ball distribution is excellent.

But despite his best efforts and those of his fellow defenders, Cliftonville took the lead with five minutes of the half remaining with the home side driven by the irrepressible Julian Stevenson.

He waltzed past three defender before his bullet strike whistled past McCready. By the time the umpires signalled the end of the half, Cliftonville had scored another two goals to comfortably lead 3-0.

Mark Elliott thought he was about to pull a goal back for Down within minutes of the restart after collecting a great pass from Chris Taylor, but the Cliftonville Ôkeeper produced a great save. Taylor then almost scored with a short corner strike, but the ball struck the base of the post and rebounded to safety.

Cliftonville always had more than enough in reserve and after those early Down chances totally dominated play for the remainder of the game. They scored another four goals, but McCready's heroics ensured the scoreline was no greater than the home side's magnificent seven.

The visitors played well in parts, but the most encouraging aspect of the performance is the continuing improvement of the club's crop of young players.