Down sent out a clear message at Malone Park last weekend that their Senior Two title bid won't be derailed.

The locals hammered home nine goals and if it hadn't been for some woeful finishing at times they could easily have doubled that score.

Sitting clear at the top-of-the-table, Down knew the game against third-placed Portrush would not be easy. And while it was pretty even early on, once Down scored their first goal the floodgates opened.

Alasdair Duff was recalled to the heart of the defence and had an outstanding game, making a number of timely interceptions and always driving forward when the need arose.

In recent seasons, Portrush have been one of Down's bogey teams and having drawn earlier in the season, the locals were out to produce an impressive performance against a side which has also defeated the title-chasing PSNI.

Paul Tate, who finished with two goals in the end, but who could have bagged four or five, won a short corner for his side in the first minute but Richard Owens' powerful shot was saved by Gordon McCallister.

Paul Neill then robbed Ricky McKeemin of possession before Portrush were awarded their first short corner in the fifth minute, but before Martin Huey had time to shoot, Stephen Ferguson nicked the ball away from him.

Sinclair White was an increasing influence on the game at this stage and set up a chance for Elliott whose shot fizzed across the goal. Tate was again denied by McCallister in the 12th minute before he failed to collect a pass from Owens three minutes later.

The pressure was mounting and after a Ferguson cross was cleared by Andy Dalazell and a minute later, Down took the lead from a penalty stroke. Adam McKee's strike was stopped by a defender, and Tate stepped forward to convert.

McKee was then denied three times in quick succession by McCallister who was having a busy first half. Elliott then went close before a dangerous ball from Jeremy McCready was cleared by Dalzell with Tate waiting to pounce.

Down went 2-0 ahead when White, who could have had a shot himself, slipped the ball to Mark Elliott who made no mistake. The home side continued to press and Tate won a short corner in the 25th minute with Owens going close.

Tate then failed to get a touch on a short corner strike with the 'keeper all at sea before Down went 3-0 ahead in the 33rd minute from another short corner. This time Tate's shot was saved, but goal predator Elliott nipped in to force the ball home.

In the dying seconds of the half, Mark Johnston was forced to save from McKeemin to keep a clean sheet going into the interval.

Tate and Neil combined to set up Down's first attack at the start of the second half before Johnston was forced to make a save from a short corner after White had been harshly penalised.

Chris Taylor's mazy run almost produced a goal in the 42nd minute and then Gavin Ringland almost picked out McKee at the back post minutes later. Tate and Taylor then combined and when then ball made its way to McKee it looked as though he would score but McCallister pulled off a fine save.

Down went 4-0 ahead in the 45th minute from White following a short corner. He drew the ball wide from a short corner and when it looked as though he had gone too far, he produced a blistering shot from an acute angle which flashed past the 'keeper. It was now a case of how many Down would score as Portrush concentrated on damage limitation.

Ricky McKeemin was then stopped in his tracks by Duff after being put through by his brother Mervyn before McKee was again denied at the other end. Tate then had three opportunities to slip the ball past McCallister but was denied on each occasion.

McCready then robbed Eoin Sayers when he was on his way towards goal and Neill also had to be alert minutes later to clear a dangerous ball into the Down penalty area.

Taylor then started and finished a terrific move in the 48th minute which led to Down's fifth goal. Taylor's mazy run saw him exchange passes with Elliott and once inside the penalty area he calmly picked his spot. Two minutes later, Taylor grabbed his second of the afternoon. That man Elliott was again at the heart of the move, picking out his team mate with an inch-perfect pass and Taylor needed no second invitation to drill the ball home to make it 6-0.

Johnston was then forced into a save at the other end before Owens, McKee and White all went close to increasing their side's lead. But the seventh goal wasn't long in coming. A short corner awarded in the 63rd minute saw White grab his second of the day when he picked his spot past McCallister with clinical accuracy.

Having scored seven at this stage, Down's players were now queuing up to score. Even skipper McCready moved to centre forward in the closing stages.

Goal number eight came after good work by Taylor and Owens was rewarded for some terrific work in the middle of the park when he scored in 66th minute. With five minutes of normal time to go, Down made it 9-0 when Tate scored his second of the day. The ball came to Owens from a short corner and he slipped it to Tate who made no mistake.

Johnston then denied Dalzell at the other end and Chris Ferguson produced two timely clearances as Portrush looked to score a consolation. Elliott almost made it 10-0 in the dying seconds and while Portrush were a short corner during the last action of the game, they failed to get a shot in on target.