Down seconds booked their place in the semi-finals of the Ulster Junior Shield with a gutsy performance at Malone Park last weekend.

Their opponents, who play in a higher league, took the lead and only forced the tie into extra-time when they scored a fortuitous equaliser in the dying seconds of normal time.

Despite missing their normal firepower up front, Down were more than a match for Raphoe thirds whom they defeated in the final of the Ulster Junior Shield four years ago.

Raphoe took the lead in the 15th minute when they scored from open play past 'keeper, Mark Johnston, but he emerged the hero in the heat of the penalty shoot-out, saving three flicks to see his side into the last four of the competition.

Down were furious they were not awarded two penalty strokes in the first half. In the first incident, the Raphoe 'keeper lay on the ball not once, but twice. Minutes later, a Raphoe defender kicked the ball off the line, but the visiting officials refused to point to the spot on both occasions.

Down refused to let the set-back get to them and took the game to their opponents, with David Gibson and Philip Brown handed the job of spearheading the attack, alongside Clifford Lennon.

The home side deservedly drew level from one of countless short corners they were awarded on the day. The equaliser came when David and Colin Gibson combined for the latter to fire past the 'keeper.

Raphoe struggled to create any meaningful chances after they opened the scoring as Down took a firm grip on the game.

They took the lead for the first time in the game when Willie Price drilled home a short corner. Colin Gibson's push out set him up nicely and after pulling the trigger, Price rattled the backboard with a ferocious shot.

The home side were now firmly in the driving seat; they dominated the short corner count and were testing the Raphoe 'keeper to the full as they pressed forward in search of a third goal to kill off the tie.

It never came and with just 20 seconds to go, Down paid the price for giving the ball away in the Raphoe penalty area. The visitors mounted a quick breakaway which saw them score an equaliser they never looked like getting.

The ball had just been re-centred when the whistle went to send the tie into extra time which proved to be a real war of attrition, with neither Down or Raphoe carving out any clear cut chances.

And so to penalty strokes. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and Down 'keeper, Mark Johnston, emerged the hero, saving three penalties to book his side in the semi-finals.

His superb saves came after skipper, Johnny Lennon tucked away the first to put his side in the lead. It was a good job he did score and that Johnston was in such brilliant form, as no other Down player found the back of the net from the spot. While Johnston saved three strokes, Raphoeƕs other two efforts flew harmlessly wide.

Down, who are the only Junior 4 side left in the competition, now face the winners of the Portadown seconds/Lisnagarvey fourths tie in the semi-final and will go into the game with renewed confidence.