Down seconds maintained their bid for promotion with a hard-earned derby win over North Down thirds at Malone Park.

The locals were in the driving seat in the first half where they produced some of their best hockey of the season, with some scintillating build-up play.

The back four of Philip Brown, Trevor McClurg, James Erskine and Chris Lennon, were under no real pressure in the opening 35 minutes, but were given a much stiffer test after the break.

With Colin Gibson and Raymond McClurg in commanding form in the middle of the park, North Down were on the back foot during the first half, only managing one strike on goal.

James Cunningham and Paul Neill provided the width for the home side, while up front, Ashley Gibson and Philip Thompson were asked to score the goals that would guarantee another two points.

Neill's penetrating runs caused all sorts of problems for the North Down defence while Cunningham was also a constant threat on the opposite flank.

Ashley Gibson almost gave his side the lead in the second minute, but his effort was saved. However, when Down were awarded their first penalty corner of the match in the seventh minute, Gibson made no mistake.

Spotting the 'keeper going to ground, Down's striker calmly lifted the ball over him into the net for a superb opener. Given the home side's domination of the game, they should have went into the half-time break with a two or three-goal cushion.

North Down, who changed tactics in the second period, looked sharper and threw more men forward in a bid to salvage something from the game.

For the opening 15 minutes Down soaked up the pressure, with Brown , Erskine and Trevor McClurg on top of their game as Lennon was given licence to bomb forward at every opportunity.

A horrible error by Down's 'keeper allowed North Down to score a fortuitous equaliser, but the belief in the Malone Park side this season saw the team put the setback behind it and drive forward in search of a winner.

Stephen Fitzsimons snatched at a chance with just the 'keeper to beat when he had time to control the ball and pick his spot. But the groans of the home side turned to delight two minutes later.

A Colin Gibson free hit drilled into the heart of the North Down penalty area was deflected past the 'keeper by Lennon for what proved to be the winner.

With 11 points in the bag, Down know they have to maintain their early season form if they are to make a serious bid for promotion.