Down seconds started 2009 with a hard-earned win over a plucky Civil Service side at Malone Park last weekend.

But they made hard work of it and again missed a host of opportunities in front of goal, particularly in the second half when the visitors were trying to force their way back into the game.

Civil Service were forced to start with just nine players and while Down took the game to them, the Belfast side was holding on thanks to an outstanding display by veteran goalkeeper, Billy Gilmore. He rolled back the years with an impressive performance, denying Philip and Gary Brown in quick succession and also saving a well struck short corner effort from Trevor McClurg.

Philip Brown thought he had given his side the lead with the first attack of the game. Set up by his namesake Gary, he drilled the ball towards the top corner of the net, only for Gilmore to turn the effort around the post.

It was all one-way traffic at this stage, with Gary Tate pushing into the middle of the park to make the most of the home side's advantage. But Down were struggling to find the back of the net.

Philip Brown again went close while a great run down the right flank by Chris Ferguson picked out Shaw McVeigh who was denied at the near post.

Civil Service were frustrating Down who were trying to take the skin off the ball with their shooting, but it was a little bit of ingenuity which led to the opening goal in the 18th minute.

Gavin Ringland turned his marker and drove towards the penalty area, slipping the ball to Philip Brown who opted for precision, rather than power, slipping the ball under the body of the advancing Gilmore.

At the other end, Peter Simpson was the most overworked Down defender, but he stuck to his task well and also seized the opportunity to drive forward on a number of occasions.

With 10 minutes to go, Down doubled their advantage when Brown scored his second of the game. Again he was in the right place at the right time and again opted for precision, slipping the ball into the net after more good work by Ringland.

The umpires had signalled two minutes until the interval when the home players lost their composure and were hit with a real sucker punch. The visitors were awarded a fortuitous free which was driven towards a forward who sneaked in on the blind side of the defence to dink the ball past the advancing 'keeper.

Civil Service started the second half with 10 men, but only managed one shot on goal during the 35 minutes. At the other end however, it was a very different story with Gilmore again in the thick of the action.

Down had countless opportunities to increase their advantage, but it was one of those days when the ball just wouldn't go in the back of the net, no matter how hard the home players tried.

In the end, Down deserved the victory which could and should have been by an even bigger margin. Nonetheless, the three points, which takes the Malone Park outfit's tally to 16, were very welcome and keeps Down in joint sixth position.

This weekend they face promotion contenders Cookstown fourths at Coolnafranky. Trevor McClurg isn't available and while Down will need to be at their best, a draw would be a terrific result.