Down’s top form continued at Ballymena last weekend.

But the locals suffered a major blow before the start of the game when 'keeper, Mark Johnston, was unable to line out due to back problems.

The injury resulted in skipper, Jeremy McCready, taking over between the posts and he was rarely troubled over the 70 minutes at the Malone Park side produced another clinical performance.

Unbeaten in the league this season, the players are relishing this weekend's vital tie against the PSNI when another three points will be another major step towards the title. The locals have no fresh injury worries ahead of the game and with the seconds also due to play at home this Saturday, Down will have a full strength squad to choose from.

But back to last Saturday in Ballymena. Down assured themselves of maximum points with a blistering first half performance which saw them score three goals in three minutes.

The visitors opened the scoring in the sixth minute following a well rehearsed short corner routine. Paul Tate's push out was stopped by Sinclair White who rolled the ball for Gavin Ringland to crash it home with a ferocious shot.

A minute later it was 2-0 and effectively game over. Ringland, who was playing at full back, fed Stephen Ferguson and the former continued his run down the wing where he was picked out by Tate who produced an inch-perfect pass.

Ringland powered his way towards goal and after rounding the 'keeper he slipped the ball to Mark Elliott who made no mistake. Within a minute, the irrepressible Elliott was celebrating again when he made it 3-0 after a surging run down the right by Ferguson who gave his marker a torrid afternoon.

With Ballymena looking for the interval to get reorganised, Down rubbed salt in the home side's wounds when they scored a fourth goal.

Adam McKee, who was outstanding in the middle of the park, was the architect of the goal. After picking up possession he fed Tate with Elliott's strike partner doing the rest.

Down were keen to press home their advantage in the second period, but it was Ballymena who pulled a goal back in the 57th minute during a goalmouth melee following the break down of a short corner set play.

Seven minutes later, Ballymena's tenacity paid off when they scored again to make it 4-2. But the visitors refused to hit the panic button and Tate popped up to make it 5-2 with a little less than 10 minutes to go in the game.

Chris Taylor, who was playing at sweeper, then decided to get in on the action. He won possession outside his own penalty area and went on a mazy run bypassing six Ballymena players on the way.

Once inside the opposition's penalty area, he slipped the ball to Tate who capped a fine performance by completing his hat-trick to complete a very professional performance.