Down won a five-goal thriller at Malone Park last weekend in their second Sussex Regiment Cup game of the season.

The locals, who had drawn with the PSNI the previous Saturday, played well in parts against Ballymena, but gifted the visitors a goal on the stroke of half-time.

Chris Taylor again impressed since his return to the senior side and Paul Tate was another welcome addition in the starting line-up which will hopefully soon feature a few more familiar faces.

Jeremy McCready gave the ball away needlessly in the first minute of the game, but defensive partner James Erskine cleared the danger.  Ballymena started well and Clifford Lennon had to be alert to prevent Tory Alexander from testing Carl Mullan in the home goal.

After soaking up the early pressure, Down took the lead in the fourth minute with their first attack of the game.  Gary Brown started the move which led to the goal and his passed picked out Tate who set up young William Fryer who finished neatly.

Paddy McKeown then missed an open net for the visitors in the eighth minute, but Ballymena’s pressing paid off two minutes later when they scored from their first short corner of the game.  A routine push out and stop saw the ball whacked past Mullan by Alexander.
Taylor went close at the other end after he danced past two defenders and within three minutes Down were back in front when Tate set up McCready who scored with a crisp finish.

The Ballymena ‘keeper denied Taylor soonafter and then Erskine had to be alert in his own penalty area as Alexander looked to score.

The game was a typical cup tie with play flowing from end to end and Ballymena forced a short corner with 15 minutes of the half to go, but McKendry’s shot was superbly blocked by Tate.
Mark Elliott nearly gave his side a two-goal cushion in the 21st minute but his shot was saved and then at the other end Mullan had to be alert to kick clear with an unmarked forward waiting to pounce.

With just 15 seconds to go until the break McCready handed Ballymena a lifeline when his hit out went straight to McKelvey who passed to Alexander to make it 2-2.

In the second period Down were tighter at the back and midway through the half introduced Willie Price.  But Ballymena were first to show and Mullan produced a smart one-handed save to deny McKelvey.

A Tate shot from a short corner in the 40th minute was saved with Elliott’s follow up deflected over the bar by a defender.  At the other end, Philip Brown, who has been a revelation at full-back, denied Alexander before Taylor’s snapshot rattled the side netting.

McCready and Tate were heavily involved in the move which led to Down’s third goal.  When the ball was worked to Graham on the left hand side of the penalty area, he swept it past the ‘keeper.

Elliott then saw a goal-bound shot brilliantly cleared off the line and with five minutes to go Brown did exactly the same at the other end.  With two minutes to go Elliott raced through on goal and his shot cannoned off the ‘keeper’s chest and re-bounded to safety.