Down seconds were just minutes away from earning a draw at Portadown last weekend when they conceded a late goal to confine them to their third defeat on the trot.

The game was marred as a spectacle by a number of controversial umpiring decisions, including one which led to a short corner from which Portadown scored their winner.

The ball was kicked into the penalty area by one of the home players before it struck a Down player on the foot and from the resultant short corner, Portadown scored to make it 3-2.

That said, Down's midfield literally ran out of steam in the closing stages of the half which allowed the home side too much time and space in the middle of the park which it exploited to the full.

Down started well and caused a few panics in the Portadown defence, with Philip Brown going close with one half chance in the sixth minute, following good work involving Sinclair White and Paul Neill.

At the other end, Down were under pressure, but Johnny Lennon and Gary Tate remained resolute at the heart of the defence. When Portadown did manage to breakthrough, they were denied by Down's 'keeper who made one great double save to keep his side in the game.

Down took the lead in the 18th minute with a well-worked goal. Richard Tarbotton was fed by Tate who then squared the ball to Brown and while he could have had a shot, he slipped the ball to White who drilled it into the net.

The goal came slightly against the run of play, but it kick-started the home side who were back on level terms three minutes later following another controversial decision. The home official awarded a free to Portadown which Down players argued should have been given the other way. The decision caused Down to lose concentration and when the ball was whipped into the penalty area, it was deflected into the net by an unmarked forward.

Stephen Ferguson should have put his side ahead minutes before the break, but with just the 'keeper to beat, he screwed his shot past the wrong side of the post. White was then denied, while a Portadown forward was denied at the other end moments later.

With poor umpiring spoiling the game for both teams, Down were determined to raise their game in the second period, but their lack of fitness, particularly in the middle of the park, proved to be their downfall.

Portadown went 2-1 ahead in the 44th minute when again an unmarked forward lurking at the near post scored and the home side would have increased their lead to three or four goals over the next 10 minutes had it not been for a few smart saves.

One came from a short corner and when the ball broke upfield, White won a penalty stroke when a defender stopped his shot going into the net with his foot. White took the stroke himself and scored to make it 2-2 with six minutes to go.

Portadown were determined to grab a winner and Down, who were most upset with a number of umpiring decisions in the closing stages, lost their shape and paid the price when Portadown made it 3-2 with just minutes to go.

Down then thought they should have been awarded at best, another stroke or, at worst, a short corner, after a shot by White hit a Portadown defender on the leg as he covered the near post. Play was waved on and the final whistle sounded.

This Saturday, Down face Kilkeel at home and will be hoping for a win to maintain their position in the middle of the Junior 3 table.