Down seconds are struggling away from home this season.

They lost again last weekend when forced to fielded a weakened team against Instonians fourths who are just above them in Junior 4.

Down went into the game without their two main strikers, Philip Brown and Mark Elliott, both of whom were on duty for Down's senior side against Parkview at Malone Park.

One positive note for the seconds was the return of James Cunningham who was making his first start of the season. Last year, Cunningham who made his hockey debut, impressed everyone at the club and he also weighed in with a number of important goals.

Down skipper, Johnny Lennon, will be hoping JC's return will coincide with a major upsurge in form and fortune and his side will be able to climb up the table and put pressure on the early pacesetters.

Instonians fielded a strong, experienced side and took the lead in the 15th minute when the Down defence was guilty of not clearing its lines.

The goal gave the home side the perfect start and while they created a number of  other chances, they were kept at bay by goalkeeper, Mark Johnston, who pulled off a number of fine saves.

Down were keen to haul themselves back into the game in the second period and were rewarded with a penalty stroke after a goal-bound shot was stopped illegally by a defender's foot.

Willie Price stepped forward to take the flick, but his effort was saved by the Instonians 'keeper.

Colin Gibson and Raymond McClurg tried to provide drive in the middle of the park, but the strong home quartet made things very difficult for them.

With just one-goal in arrears, Down tried everything they could to score an equaliser, but without Brown and Elliott, they were light up front.

With five minutes to go, Instonians killed off any hope of Down snatching a draw when a shot was deflected by a Down player past Johnston.

This Saturday, Down will be hoping to kick-start their push for promotion when they face South Antrim thirds on the shale at Malone Park.