The mathematics for Down are simple after this home defeat against title rivals PSNI last Saturday.

The Malone Park outfit can't afford any more slip-ups and must now defeat the police away from home to give themselves an opportunity to secure promotion.

Given the police side's performance in recent weeks, they look unlikely to drop points before the end of the season, that's why Down must beat them on their own turf  to be in with a chance of a play-off.

There is a long way to go and anything can happen, but given the nature of the league, it's hard to see either Down or the PSNI losing to any of the other teams, that's why the outcome of the next head-to-head between the title rivals is so crucial.

After a scoreless first half, Down took the lead through Gavin Ringland, but the visitors hit back, equalising with a scrappy goal, before sealing the win with just a few minutes to go after the home side had been reduced to 10 men.

A draw would not have been a bad result, but defeat will focus Down minds and provide them with that little incentive to up their game to another level over the coming weeks.

The home started well in freezing conditions last Saturday, with Richard Owens outstanding in the middle of the park alongside Adam McKee. Owens was everywhere it seemed in the opening few minutes, breaking up attacks and picking out his team mates with pinpoint passes.

The opening move of the game was started by Owens who found McKee, but he just failed to control the ball when well placed inside the PSNI penalty area. Jeremy McCready then snuffed out an attack by the visitors and almost produced the perfect pass for Paul Tate to run on to.

Stephen Ferguson and McKee combined in the seventh minute before Owens set up Sinclair White who was robbed off possession just as he was about to pull the trigger. Down's first short corner was awarded in the eighth minute, but Elliott's shot from the top of the penalty area flashed past the wrong side of the post.

The PSNI won their first short corner in the ninth minute but failed to get a shot in on target, while two minutes later, Down's 'keeper, Mark Johnston, was forced to produce his first clearance of the game.

McKee and Chris Lennon then combined with the latter's cross just evading Tate and Elliott who were being tightly marked. At the other end, James Erskine produced two superb tackles to break up PSNI forays before Johnston produced another save following a short corner.

The PSNI were relying on a long ball game, which wasn't posing Down any problems and the home side's tactic of playing the ball through the middle and passing it around was causing problems.

Down took the lead within a minute of the restart when Ringland scored a blockbuster. Owens slipped the ball to the sweeper who controlled it. As he did so it took a slight bobble allowing the Down defender to crash it into the roof of the net for a superb opener.

Five minutes later, the PSNI mounted an attack which came to nothing before McKee, who was unmarked in the penalty area, couldn't control the ball after great work by Tate and Chris Taylor. The PSNI equaliser came in the 56th minute when a forward roofed the ball past Johnston.

Owens then missed an opportunity from a short corner before Ferguson was yellow carded for hitting the ball away after the umpire had awarded a short corner to the police. Owens and Elliott both went close at the other end before the visitors scored what proved to be the winner with less than five minutes to go.

Down failed to cut out a police winger who ran long the byeline before slipping the ball to a team mate who poked it past Johnston to secure all three points and put a serious dent in the home side's promotion aspirations.