Down’s defeat in this crucial Senior One relegation battle leaves them rooted firmly at the bottom of the table.

And, to make matters worse, Cliftonville, who had been occupying bottom place for most of the season, pulled off the result of the day when they defeated Ballynahinch to grab a valuable three points.

Down have been left with a mountain to climb and with eight games to go they must start picking up points. They still have to play Ballynahinch and Cliftonville and a win in both these games could save their season which promised so much, but has  so far delivered so little.

The locals have conceded 71 goals and worryingly, have played two games more than their relegation rivals, a fact which compounds their current league position.

Down were upset by a number of umpiring decisions which they felt did not go their way last weekend and were left frustrated in the closing stages when Paul Tate was upended in the penalty area as he was about to shoot. Expecting the umpire to point to the spot, he inexplicably awarded a short corner.

That said, the visitors did create a number of chances which they didn't put away and with a tough away tie against Antrim this weekend, it isn't getting an easier at all.

Last Saturday the local started reasonably well, but it was South Antrim who opened the scoring in the 15th minute from a short corner. A well-worked set piece saw Craig Campbell drag flick the ball into the top corner of the net, giving stand-in goalkeeper, Jeremy McCready, no chance.

To their credit, Down came storming back with Sinclair White, Tate and Chris Taylor enjoying possession in the middle of the park and in the 21st minute the visitors were back on level terms.

The goal was scored Tate who was one of Down's top performers on the day. He was in the right place at the right time to sweep the ball into the net to give his side hope, scoring past Montgomerie.

Both sides created a number of half-chances for the remainder of the half, but neither 'keeper was seriously challenged. South Antrim were also awarded a number of short corners, but these were well defended by the Down defence.

Down were keen to get their noses in front for the first time in the second period, but found themselves 3-1 behind after a crazy 10-minute spell which cost them dear in the end.

South Antrim went 2-1 ahead when Ward Phillips scored and the home side went 3-1 ahead from the penalty spot. The flick was awarded after a forward was tackled by Alasdair Duff and James Erskine and the umpire had no hesitation pointing to the spot with Mike Bryson scoring.

Duff produced a super cross-field pass to pick out the unmarked Taylor at the back post in the 53rd minute and he drilled the ball past the 'keeper. Five minutes later, Down's tenacity paid off when they made it 3-3.

The goal was a carbon copy of one Sinclair White scored two years ago on the same ground in a cup match when he dived full length to steer the ball into the net for a great goal which completed a flowing move from defence to attack. Taylor and Stephen Ferguson exchanged passes and when the ball was drilled into the penalty area, White dived full length to deflect it into the net.

With three minutes to go, the visitors would have settled for the draw, but they were caught with the classic sucker punch when Richard McConkey scored. In the dying embers of the game, Tate looked set to score before being taken out. With the Down players expecting the umpire to point to the spot, they were left holding their heads in their hands when the official awarded a short corner instead.

This weekend, Down face Antrim and the locals are under no illusion about the enormity of the task that awaits them. Anything they can get is a bonus. They know their season will ultimately depend on the outcome of those games against Ballynahinch and Cliftonville.