This crucial Junior 4 tie against two of the teams in the top five of the league can best be forgotten about.

The only good thing about the clash was that Down came away with a point to keep alive their hopes of winning promotion.

Braving bitterly cold conditions and Kilkeel supporters who were quick to make their voices and views heard, the Malone Park outfit  played well and could have stolen maximum points in the closing stages of the game.

It looked as though Mark Elliott had given his side an unlikely win with just two minutes to go, but his effort was cleared off the line by the veteran Clive Russell, the man who taught hockey to Down's midfield generals, Colin Gibson and Raymond McClurg.

The Kilkeel 'keeper was the busier of the two netminders throughout the 70 minutes and while Down's Mark Johnston made a few routine saves, he was never fully tested to show the extent of his capabilities.

Down started well, with Gibson and McClurg pulling the strings in the middle of the park, with defenders Trevor McClurg and Alasdair Duff on top of their game.

Ashley Gibson went close with a rasping short corner strike and Elliott was also unlucky not to open his account.

Kilkeel thought they had scored the opening goal of the game at the start of the second half, but the effort was ruled out by the visitors' umpire who ruled the ball had struck a home player on the foot before it went into the net.

Then came that Elliott effort in the closing stages which was cleared by Russell who proved he has lost none of his guile and tenacity.

This weekend, Down face Antrim thirds at home in the Ulster Junior Shield and will be hoping for a top drawer performance so they can take their place in the third round.

One player missing will be the influential Raymond McClurg, but the locals should have enough in record a win which would take them within 70 minutes of a place in the semi-finals of the competition.