Down seconds showed what they are capable of with this narrow 1-0 win over fellow Junior 3 strugglers South Antrim fourths at Malone Park last weekend.

In what was a cracking game which saw some end-to-end hockey, the home side emerged victorious thanks to a first half strike from Peter Simpson who ghosted in unmarked at the back post to get the slightest of touches on a ball to deflect it into the net.

The win also avenged a heavy defeat Down suffered at the hands of South Antrim a matter of weeks ago and the sides are also due to meet again shortly in the second round of the Ulster Junior Shield.

In dark, overcast conditions last Saturday, South Antrim started brightly and it was clear they had no intention of sitting back waiting to be picked off by the home team, who were really solid at the back with Gary Tate, Trevor McClurg, Simpson and Chris Ferguson in top form.

In fact, it was the visitors who had two clear cut chances to open the scoring, but both efforts were saved. At the other end, David Ferris was causing problems on the right and Philip Brown's movement was creating space behind the centre-half and sweeper.

It was clear from the early stages that one goal was going to win it as both sides pressed for the opener. Confusion in the Down defence allowed a South Antrim a clear shot at goal, but the effort was cleared before the same player had a second opportunity minutes later, but it was again cleared.

Adam McKee was particularly impressive in the middle of the park where Gary Brown played the anchor role, dropping deep to defend when South Antrim attacked. McKee went close and Brown also saw a half-chance cleared.

Down opened the scoring midway through the first half following a move down the right wing and when the ball was whipped into the penalty area, the unmarked Simpson deflected it into the net.

South Antrim upped the tempo and while they created a number of half chances and were awarded a number of short corners, they couldn't find a way past the defence, marshalled superbly by Gary Tate, who took a goal-bound short corner strike the line, and the hardworking McClurg.

Paul Tate was causing problems in the middle of the park and he was a constant thorn in the side of the visitors over the 70 minutes as his powerful running caused panic in the defence.

Down were expecting an onslaught in the second period and while the visitors did up their game, the defence held firm. A number of short corners were awarded and saved and with 10 minutes to go, South Antrim were awarded a penalty stroke.

Down's 'keeper saved a shot, but the ball spun towards a forward whom, the umpire ruled, was impeded by Stephen Ferguson and pointed to the spot. But South Antrim players were left holding their heads in their hands when it wasn't converted; a player's effort striking the post and rebounding wide.

South Antrim's 'keeper produced a number of saves to deny McKee, Paul Tate and Ferguson in the second period and it was the home players and supporters who were delighted to hear the final whistle. A much-needed three points takes Down's tally to 10, but with three points in the bag, there is a lot more hard work ahead.

Last weekend's performance was the type that's going to be required at home and if the Malone Park outfit can pick up a few more wins, it could avoid the drop. The most important factor is keep the discipline over the coming weeks, particularly away from home.

Chris Ferguson sustained a nasty hand injury last weekend. The full back was wrapped across the knuckles which battling for possession and had to leave the field for treatment. Everyone hopes he will be fit for this weekend's clash against Mossley thirds at home.