Down bowed out of the Irish Senior Cup with this surprise 4-2 defeat against Cliftonville last Saturday.

Having already defeated their Belfast opponents in Senior One, Down were keen to secure another psychological blow over their rivals with a win which would not only book them a place in the third round of the cup, but give them the upper hand when the sides meet again later in the season. The locals were once again without the influential Aaron Minnis at the heart of the defence, but they battled gamely.

With nothing to lose, Down were intent on playing with freedom, but things did not work out in their favour. Cliftonville's 'keeper did keep his side in the game and had he not denied Paul Tate with two wonder saves the game may well have been decided by extra time or even penalty strokes.

As it turned out, Cliftonville progressed to the third round while Down were left to focus on another crunch Senior One game this weekend when they face Queen's at Upper Malone.

It's a vital encounter and one Down will be aiming to take something from before they face South Antrim and Antrim respectively.

In last weekend's cup tie, Down started brightly, but within 10 minutes they found themselves a goal in arrears when Lindsey Burrows scored with a crisp shot from just inside the penalty area.

Five minutes later however, the locals were back on level terms following a well-worked short corner routine. Chris Taylor's push out was stopped by Gavin Ringland who slipped it to Sinclair White. He then drilled the ball to the back post where a grateful Stephen Ferguson was waiting to deflect it into the net.

The goals should have settled the visitors, but no sooner had they stopped celebrating the equaliser when Cliftonville took the lead for the second time in the game.

The goal came from a long corner and a first-time slap hit from David Hurley whistled past Mark Johnston into the net to ensure the home side went into the interval in the ascendancy.

Down were keen to haul themselves back into the game in the second period, but they struggled to find their rhythm. Tate saw his goal-bound shot, which looked destined for the top corner of the net, clawed away by the 'keeper, with the save proving to be the turning point in the cup tie.

Within minutes of possibly drawing level, Down found themselves 4-1 behind and facing an exit from the cup.

Two goals from well-worked short corner set pieces, both perfectly executed drag flick efforts by Hurley and Scott Carruth, put Cliftonville well clear and they had almost both feet in the third round.

The home 'keeper then denied Tate for a second time after good work by Ferguson and Mark Elliott and while the locals tried to force extra time, it was always going to be too much of an ask.

With the cup now out of the way, the main focus is on the league and staying in Senior One. The fight for survival continues this weekend against QueenÕs and even a point would be a terrific result.