Down seconds came so close to grabbing an unlikely point against Instonians thirds last Friday night in Belfast.

The home side was particularly impressive and ran the show in the middle of the park, but despite creating a host of chances, it had only two goals to show for its efforts at the end of 70 minutes.

Instonians were awarded a countless short corners, but despite varying their routines on several occasions, they couldn't find a way past a stubborn Down defence in this Junior 3 clash.

Down, who went into the game on 19 points, were keen to take something from the game, but returned home empty-handed. Chris Lennon struck the crossbar with a ferocious shot in the first half, while Mark Elliott went closed with a number of half chances.

In perfect conditions for hockey, despite the late starting time - 8.30pm - both sides played well and it was pretty even during the opening exchanges. Down were hanging on, relying on their defenders and goalkeeper to keep them in the game.

Instonians forced a number of short corners in this period and just two shots on goal from open play, one of which led to a goal.

Paul Tate and Adam McKee had their work cut out in the middle of the park, but the home side failed to make the most of the wide open space full back Chris Ferguson had in front of him the entire game.

Instonians' first shot on goal came midway through the half, but the shot was saved, while at the other end, Lennon produced that blockbuster which cannoned off the crossbar.

The home side took the lead 15 minutes before the break after they punished the visitors for giving away the ball cheaply in midfield. It was moved along the right wing with a forward's shot going in at the near post through a crowd of players. Elliott was about to pounce when he was denied by the 'keeper and Tate saw a shot swept to safety.

While Instonians had the lions' share of the possession, Down were hanging on and they tried to up the tempo in the second period which they did for a while. But the home side's fitness and superior distribution made it hard work for the locals.

With 14 minutes to go, Instonians made it 2-0 following a defensive effort, Down had several chances to clear the ball and didn't, providing an Instonians forward with a clear shot on goal.

His powerful strike was saved but, unluckily for Down's 'keeper, the rebound struck defender Trevor McClurg before being deflected into the net. Down tried to force their way back into game but never looked like breaching the home defence.

This weekend, Down can forget about the league when they face Bangor fourths away from home in the Ulster Junior Shield.