Down seconds are tantalisingly close to a place in Junior 3.

A superb derby win over North Down at the Comber Leisure Centre last Saturday took the locals top of the table with a game in hand over second-placed Bangor whom they have to play at Malone Park in the closing weeks of the season.

Down have been superbly consistent over the season and a just reward for their efforts would be one of the two promotion spots up for grabs.

Goals from Stephen Ferguson, Mark Elliott and Raymond McClurg gave Down a superb win and a much-needed two points which takes their tally for the season to 29.

Down, who defeated their derby rivals 2-1 at Malone Park earlier in the season, were out to make it a league double and for the first five minutes had the locals on the back foot. North Down were forced to bring almost everyone behind the ball as the visitors swarmed all over them like a rash.

Down forwards, Paul Neill and Elliott, were causing all sorts of problems and the home side was struggling to get its act together on the synthetic surface which it is more accustomed to.

The visitors took the lead in the 12th minute when Neill left his marker and whipped a cross into the penalty area which was controlled in an instant by Ferguson who rifled the ball past the 'keeper before he had time to move.

It was all one-way traffic at this stage and James Cunningham was unlucky not to score on two occasions. His first effort was blocked, while his second was brilliantly saved by the North Down 'keeper.

At the back, Johnny Lennon and Trevor McClurg were magnificent at the heart of the Down defence, while full backs Stephen Fitzsimons and Chris Lennon bombed forward at every opportunity.

It seemed only a matter of time before the visitors would increase their lead and 10 minutes before the break they went 2-0 ahead.

Trevor McClurg started the move which led to the goal with a pinpoint pass to Cunningham and while he was forced wide inside the penalty area he managed to get a shot in on goal.

His effort was saved but the ball broke to Elliott who kept his nerve to steer it over the line to give his side an invaluable two-goal cushion at the break.

Into the second period and the onslaught Down were expecting well and truly came. It was backs-to-the-wall stuff for long periods and stand-in goalkeeper, Philip Brown, produced a fantastic save, diverting a shot which looked destined for the top corner, over the bar.

North Down kept banging on the door, but it was the visitors who went 3-0 ahead. It's not often Raymond McClurg scores. More used to oiling the midfield engine room alongside Colin Gibson, McClurg found himself in the North Down penalty area with his back to goal.

However, he managed to conjure up a shot which was deflected past his own 'keeper by a North Down defender. It was effectively game over.

North Down scored a consolation following a short corner in the closing stages, but the points were already in the bag and a delighted Down are looking forward to their final three games of the season.

They face Armagh seconds and Cookstown fifths away and are at home to Bangor fifths, the latter who sit alongside them at the top of Junior 4.

This Saturday the locals have the day off when they can recharge their batteries which promises to be a dramatic season run in.