Down need a miracle if they are to retain their Senior One status.

Their place in the league hangs by a thread and they need at least a win before the end of the season to force a possible play-off against Ballynahinch, assuming the Langley Road men don't pick up any more points.

At Douglas Park in Newcastle last weekend, Down lost a thrilling six-goal thriller against Newry and ended the game with nine men after goalkeeper Mark Johnston and defender Alasdair Duff were sent off in the closing stages.

The match was one which the locals had targeted as a possible win and had they again taken their chances when it mattered, the outcome may well have been different. The locals were missing a number of key players and if they don't stay up, they must make the recruitment of a bustling centre-forward one of their number one priorities.

Newry raced into a 2-0 lead after 15 minutes when G. Holmes scored from a short corner with a perfectly executed drag flick which rocketed into the net. The second goal was scored by K. McWilliams after Down skipper, Jeremy McCready, lost possession and the Newry player picked his spot past Johnston.

Down came back into the game at this stage and Newry were rattled as the Malone Park men proved they can play. Too often this season they have failed to make the most of possession in a number of games and their finishing has let them down on more than one occasion.

The home side reduced the deficit in the 19th minute when Chris Taylor scored after a sweeping move started at the back by McCready. He found Duff whose pass into the penalty area was smashed home on the half volley to give the 'keeper no chance.

The goal was the perfect reply and Down had their tails up at this stage in a game they knew they simply had to win to give themselves even a glimmer of hope of remaining in the league.

McCready's half-time team talk was simple. Keep passing and creating chances and goals would come. While the locals have lost a lot this season, they have always created chances and that was again the case last weekend.

Within five minutes of the restart, Down were back on level terms when Taylor scored his second of the afternoon. Unmarked at the back post he slipped the ball past the 'keeper from point blank range after some terrific work by Gavin Ringland and Sinclair White.

Stephen Ferguson then should have put Down 3-2 ahead in the 43rd minute, but with the goal at his mercy, he failed to hit the target. It would really have been interesting to see how the visitors would have reacted to this.

Newry were on the back foot and after Ferguson's glaring miss, Taylor then had two great chances to put Down out of sight but he failed to hit the target and, not for the first time this season, the misses proved costly.

The pain of the missed chances was compounded by Newry's McWilliams who eased the pressure on the visitors when he made it 3-2 with another perfectly executed drag flick.

Down continued to create chances, but they couldn't put the ball in the net and, in the closing stages, Holmes scored his second of the game in the 50th minute when Newry caught the home side on the break.

Johnston and Duffy then got their marching orders and while Holmes "scored" from a short corner in the dying seconds, with Down's Paul Tate playing as a kicking back, it was ruled out by the umpires.

Not for the first time this season, it was a case of what might have been as far as Down were concerned. Whether they stay up or drop in to Senior Two, the club needs to go on a major offensive to recruit new players from somewhere. The locals don't have the strength in depth of other clubs and, significantly, there are no teenagers in the seconds pressing for a place in the senior side.

If Down are relegated, it's time to reflect and take stock and plan for the future.