A blistering opening spell in what was the biggest game of the season so far in Senior Two took Down top of the table.

The Malone Park outfit sent out a warning to all their title rivals that they are going to take some stopping and with Portrush only able to draw against Crossgar, Down have a little breathing space at the top.

They have lost just one game this season and with 24 points in the bag, they hope to be in pole position when the champions are declared at the end of March.

Between now and then, Saintfield will be out to make up for the ground they lost weekend and they still have to go to Malone Park. This game will be a rearranged fixture at the end of the season, with the outcome having a major say in the destination of the title.

Saintfield's game plan was ripped to shreds after just 58 seconds last Saturday when Stephen Ferguson scored the first of his two goals on the day.

The goal was started by Down skipper, Jeremy McCready, who was making his first start for a month having been in Australia on holiday. He robbed Alan Buchanan of possession and picked out Ferguson on the right wing.

As the Down forward headed towards goal, the Saintfield defence parted like the Red Sea and Ferguson drilled an unstoppable shot past Graeme Finlay for a fantastic opener.

Willie Heaney then produced a superb tackle to prevent Chris Lennon forcing his way into the penalty area and then a dangerous Paul Tate's cross was cleared by Saintfield's experienced defender, Davy Hobbs, in the third minute.

Hobbs then broke up another Down attack mounted by Ferguson and Gavin Ringland, while at the other end, Davy Johnston skinned Alasdair Duff, but his cross towards strike partner Gavin Kirkpatrick, was cleared by James Erskine. Johnston was then set up by the impressive Matt Owen, but the striker's shot was saved by Down 'keeper, Mark Johnston.

Finlay had to be alert to kick a Tate cross away from the danger zone and seconds later, Hobbs swooped to steal possession away from Lennon.

Kirkpatrick then picked out Johnston and with just his namesake in the Down goal to beat, a bad bobble denied the Saintfield marksman the opportunity to control the ball and the chance was gone.

Heaney then broke up a Down attack when he tackled Ringland who would have been in on goal had the Saintfield defender not won possession and when the ball was drilled forward, Ferguson ran back to nip the ball off Lance Walker.

Two minutes later, Ferguson made it 2-0 when his short corner squeezed between the pads of Finlay. Down were enjoying a lot of possession at this stage, but when Ferguson took himself off, the move allowed Chris Telford, Buchanan and Sammy Davidson to get a grip of things in the middle of the park.

Ashley Gibson blazed a shot over the bar after being set up by Ringland, while Buchanan's probing run into the Down penalty area was halted by Lennon. But Saintfield's pressure paid off when the visitors needlessly conceded a free on the edge of their penalty area with less than a minute to go.

Hobbs took charge of the set piece and when the ball was drilled in to the danger area, Walker got a touch, with the ball just about creeping into the net.

The goal was the perfect tonic for the home side going into the interval and Owen almost made it 2-2 within minutes of the restart when he deflected a free hit towards the Down goal, but Johnston was alert to kick it clear. Davy Johnston then went close at the other end, but his shot struck the sideboard and flew harmlessly wide.

Midway through the half, Down went 3-1 ahead and eased the pressure they were under. The crucial goal was scored by Mark Elliott who was set up by Ferguson whose pinpoint cross found the visitors striker with a gilt-edged chance. It was one he didn't waste either, scoring with a reverse stick shot.

Johnston again went close at the other end via a number of half chances, but the home side struggled to play with any sort of rhythm.

Down made it 4-1 when Gibson scored after a surging run down the left wing by Lennon. After passing Adam Thompson, he crossed for Gibson to pick his spot past Finlay.

Saintfield will be disappointed they didn't take more from the game and will have to regroup for their next league game. As for Down, it's Omagh at home and while the Malone Park outfit should win, they cannot afford to be complacent.

Omagh may be bottom, but so were Larne last year when Down dropped two vital points which ended up costing them the title.