Ballynahinch won this vital Linden Cup tie in the dying minutes of a pulsating tie which the home side could, and perhaps, should have won.

The killer goal came in the 66th minute from former Down player, Philip Murray who had the easy task of slipping the ball into the net after some horrific Down defending.

That said, just minutes earlier, Ashley Gibson skipped into the penalty area and while he could have shot, he unselfishly squared the ball to Chris Taylor who was left holding his head in his hands when he got it all wrong and failed to get enough purchase on the ball to push it past a stranded Mark Brown.

Ballynahinch were not expecting an easy game and were surprised early on, as Down paraded new signings, Paul Tate and Sinclair White, two players who will make a major contribution and who could help propel Down towards the Senior Two title.

But back to the cup tie. Ballynahinch arrived without the influential Grant Hayes and even if he had been available, he may not have been able to influence how the game panned out.

The visitors' new defensive line-up was on show for the first time. Former Omagh player, Michael Scott, who played in the heart of the defence and was always quick to step into the middle of the park to make the extra man, impressed throughout.

Ballynahinch also fielded Matthew Martin, surely one of the hottest prospects in Ulster hockey and a player destined to move to one of the Province's leading clubs in the not too distant future.

Down created the first chance of the game when Taylor ghosted into the penalty area after some great build-up play involving Tate and Gavin Ringland. Taylor, who eased past Leslie Harrison, drilled a shot goalwards which was blocked by Brown.

In fact Brown was the busier of the two 'keepers in the first half. He also blocked a shot from Gibson, while at the other end, the only save his opposite number had to make was from Mark Graham who looked set to score after evading a tackle from Chris Lennon.

Down took the lead midway through the half from a well-worked penalty corner. The push out was worked square to Ringland who took aim before unleashing a powerful drive which whistled into the bottom corner of the net past the diving Brown.

Down had their tails up at this stage and were playing well, pressuring the Ballynahinch midfield of Jeremy Rea, Martin, Darren Cairns and Lawrence Patterson.

The visitors pushed forward in search of an equaliser before the interval and got back on level terms, courtesy of a terrific strike from Cairns.

His path to goal was made easy by the Down defence which parted like the Red Sea and Ballynahinch's skipper crashed the ball into the net off the underside of the Crossgar. Down players protested Cairns' strike was from outside the penalty area, but umpire David Foster was bang in line and awarded the goal.
Down's half time team talk was simple. Keep plugging away, don't do anything silly and a second goal would come.

Gibson and Tate linked up well together after the break, but Down, who played Larne just 18 hours before they faced Ballynahinch started to tire a little and Ballynahinch got more of a grip in the second half. They piled on more pressure, but Down's 'keeper denied Graham with a stick tackle from a short corner and then blocked a Martin shot and watched skipper, Jeremy McCready, clear the rebounded shot off the line.
Former Down player, Murray got little change out of his former team mates and was closely policed by James Erskine who never put a foot wrong. Down failed to test Brown as much in the second half and when Murray had a chance to fire his side into the lead, his shot was blocked by the home 'keeper.
Then came that piece of unselfish play from Gibson who waltzed past Leslie Harrison and Keith Scott to set up Taylor who fired wide when it looked easier to score.

Down summoned up one last effort, but were caught by the sucker punch. The home side was on the attack when it lost possession and the ball was passed to Graham who ran unchallenged into the home penalty area. Down's 'keeper raced to meet him, but Graham squared the ball to Murray who scored.
Down were disappointed they did not grab a point, but are confident about the weeks and months ahead. Stephen Ferguson, Raymond McClurg, Paul Neill and Aaron Minnis were unavailable last weekend and with the arrival of Tate and White, competition for places is more than healthy.