Three weeks into the new Senior One season and Down at last have points on the board; they've also scored three goals and given themselves a massive confidence booster for the rest of the league campaign.

The locals may have been under the cosh in the opening five minutes and been the poorer of the sides in the opening half, but they went into the interval with a one-goal advantage.

It proved to be the platform for a superb win and one which reminds the other clubs at the foot of the table that Down have no intention of going straight back into Senior Two.

Still missing Chris Taylor and Paul Neill, the locals were confident of taking something from what really was, despite it being so early in the season, a must-win game.

Cliftonville, who struggled last season, started on top and were all over Down like a rash in the opening minutes, with the visitors grateful to goalkeeper, Mark Johnston for keeping them in the game. Ahead of him, James Erskine was again superb.

The home side also knew the importance of taking something from the game but was rocked in the third minute when Down took the lead. Alasdair Duff drove a free hit into the penalty area and Ashley Gibson cleverly deflected it past goalkeeper, Mark Holmes, for the opener.

Despite the set back, Cliftonville continued to press, but couldn't find a way past Erskine, Aaron Minnis, Alasdair Duff and skipper, Jeremy McCready. Midfielders Gavin Ringland and Sinclair White didn't shirk their defensive duties either and dropped back to provide additional cover.

Ringland then went close at the other end with a half chance and while the home side forced a number of short corners, they either fired wide or Johnston and his defenders cleared the danger.

Minnis, who made a welcome return for Down after injury, was superb, with his tackling one of the key features of his side's display. But, as the first half drew to a close, Minnis was yellow-carded, while two minutes later he was joined in the umpire's book by McCready and Cliftonville's Alan Magee.

Down were keen to build on their slender lead in the second half, but could never have imagined leading 3-0 by the 40th minute.

Two goals in quick succession from Ringland and the impressive Stephen Ferguson left the home side dead and buried as Down grew in stature and confidence.

Chris Lennon was starting to cause mayhem on the left with his mazy runs, one of which led to Ringland's goal. Lennon played a clever one-two with Mark Elliott and when the ball was whipped into the penalty area by the latter, courtesy of a sublime piece of skill using the reverse stick, Ringland was on hand to score.

Before Cliftonville had time to recover, they found themselves 3-0 behind. Lennon and Elliott were again involved in the lead-up to the goal and when a free hit drilled into the area fell to Ferguson, there was only going to be one outcome.

Duff and Gibson were shown yellow cards for Down and while the home side pulled a goal back through the experienced Billy Pollock, it was too little, too late.

Down face Harlequins this weekend and it's not going to be easy. But last Saturday's win could not have come at a better time and the locals will be determined to not only compete, but show what they can do.