Down completed their Senior Two league programme at Malone Park with what in the end was a convincing win.

With the title already in the bag, there was an air of complacency early on and Ballymena took a shock lead in the eighth minute as a result of some shoddy defending.

But the locals managed to claw their way back and could have scored more than six goals had it not been for some poor finishing and some fine saves by the Ballymena 'keeper.

The home side went into the game missing Paul Neill, Alasdair Duff, Sinclair White, Chris Lennon and Chris Taylor but they weren't missed, with Chris Ferguson again proving he will be pushing for a starting place in the senior side next season. He never put a foot wrong and pushed forward at every opportunity.

Gary Tate, who was selected in defence with so many regular first eleven players missing, produced a great tackle in the second minute to send Adam McKee scampering away before Chris Ferguson was then forced to clear his lines with a Ballymena forward waiting to pounce.

Richard Owens, whose non-stop running was again a feature of Down's play, set up a chance for Mark Elliott whose shot was saved in the fifth minute and then Owens fluffed a short corner strike seconds later.

Elliott then missed when he should have scored and it looked as though it was going to be one of those days when the ball wouldn't go in the net. It eventually did, but it was Ballymena who scored. An innocuous free hit drilled into the penalty area was deflected into the net by Andrew Shields with the Down players standing watching.

The goal was the spark the home side needed. Jeremy McCready, who was playing centre forward, saw a shot saved before the Ballymena 'keeper denied Elliott in the 11th minute. Stephen Ferguson saw a shot whistle past the post before he Ferguson levelled things when he flicked the ball into the net in the 13th minute.

Paul Tate was denied from his side's first short corner of the game in the 15th minute before Ringland hesitated with the goal at his mercy two minutes later and the chance was gone. McKee and Elliott combined in the 19th minute with the former winning a short corner before Chris Ferguson went on a great run and produced a dangerous cross into the penalty area which everyone missed.

Ten minutes before the break, Elliott made it 2-1 with a cool finish after some terrific build-up play involving Stephen Ferguson, but Ballymena scored another sloppy goal through David Holmes from a short corner to make it 2-2 with eight minutes until the break. Paul Tate was denied twice in quick succession by the 'keeper before Chris Ferguson produced a great saving tackle as a Ballymena forward was about to pull the trigger.

Just a minute before the break, Philip Brown scored to make it 3-2, with his goal the result of sheer determination. He was put through on goal by McKee and as the 'keeper approached, Browner didn't duck out of the challenge and got a touch to deflect the ball into the net before he was clattered by the netminder.

Down knew they needed to up the tempo in the second half and they did just that. Ballymena's 'keeper produced a flying save to deny Elliott when the ball looked as though it was heading for the top corner before Mark Johnston produced a triple save at the other end to prevent the visitors getting back on level terms, with the ball eventually hacked to safety by Stephen Ferguson.

McCready then saw a reverse stick shot taken off the line in the 40th minute before Elliott did an impression of Dimitar Berbatov with some silky skills on the byline which created a chance for McKee.

Brown shot wide following a short corner in the 46th minute before Elliott was denied by the 'keeper as the visitors struggled to get out of their own half.

Down went 4-2 ahead from a well-worked short corner in the 55th minute. Owens slipped the ball to McKee who flicked the ball into the top corner of the net before McKee and Paul Tate combined to create a chance for Elliott whose shot flew over the bar.

McCready made it 5-2 in the 61st minute after some great work by Paul Tate and then Owens set up his side's sixth goal. A powerful run from deep inside his own half took him to the right hand side of the penalty area and he drilled the ball towards goal where Elliott had the simplest of tasks to deflect it home. Tate almost made it 7-2 before Ringland saw his short corner effort saved in the dying seconds of the game.

Down complete their season with a game away to Parkview and a win would take their overall points tally to 43. Before that there's the small matter of an Irish Challenge Trophy semi-final date against Campbellians, while Down are also in the semi-finals of the Senior Two cup where they could face the PSNI.