Down took a step towards the semi-finals of the Linden Cup with this opening day of the season win against a poor East Antrim side.

The locals welcomed back Sinclair White into the heart of the midfield, but were missing the influential Paul Tate who looks like missing most of the season after sustaining a nasty hand injury while playing cricket. Also missing were Chris Taylor and Mark Elliott.

Down still have to face Campbellians and Parkview at home and two wins would book their place in the semi-finals of the cup they made their own in the early 1980s, winning it four times in five years.

A hat-trick from Ashley Gibson and a goal from Gavin Ringland was enough in the end to see off East Antrim who were no match for a Down side which aims to use the cup competition as vital preparation for their Senior One league campaign which begins next month.

Last Saturday, the main aim was a good performance and of course two points to set them for their remaining games in the group stages of the cup competition.

On paper, it was always going to be an easy win for Down who created an incredible 39 chances during the 70 minutes. The East Antrim 'keeper played well and kept the score down to a respectable level.

His opposite number, Mark Johnston, didn't have a save to make and can expect a little more action when he faces Campbellians and Parkview respectively.

As for the game itself, Down defenders Aaron Minnis and James Erskine ensured East Antrim managed to get beyond the 25-yard line on one occasion, while Paul Neill was outstanding on the wing.

Down sprayed the ball about with confidence and created numerous chances, but they didn't manage to break the deadlock until the 25th minute when Gibson scored the first of his three goals.

Stephen Ferguson, who could and should have scored a bagful on the day, was involved in the build-up which led to Gibson's opener alongside the impressive White.

In fact, Ferguson took some stick from his team mates who were annoyed on occasion that rather than set them up, he tried to score from acute angles.

At the start of the second half, Down were keen to press home their advantage and within five minutes of the restart went 2-0 ahead.

Alasdair Duff's short corner push out was stopped by Ringland and with White feigning to shot, the ball was switched to Gibson who placed it in the corner. Five minutes later Ringland was denied when the 'keeper saved his drag flick effort which looked destined for the back of the net.

Down went 3-0 ahead when Ringland eventually got his name on the scoresheet, with the goal coming from a short corner. This time Duff's push out was squared by Ringland to White who slipped the ball back to Gavin to drill the ball home.

With 10 minutes to go, Gibson showed is predatory instincts when he was on hand to flick the ball home after Ferguson's shot rebounded off the 'keeper's pads.

A great start for Down who must consider themselves as one of the favourites for the cup this year. They still have to face Campbellians and Parkview, but home advantage should prove decisive.

With more players available this weekend, competition for places in both the senior side and second eleven is set to hot up which is good, both for the teams and the players as well.