Down moved top of Senior Two with this derby win over Crossgar at Malone Park.

Two first half goals from Ashley Gibson killed of Crossgar who staged a spirited fight back in the second half as they tried to haul themselves back into the game.

The eagerly anticipated contest proved to be a tale of two 'keepers, with Crossgar's Alastair Patterson and Down's Mark Johnston having a major influence on the game.

Patterson kept his side in the game with a string of point-blank saves in the first half, while Johnston had to be at his best in the closing stages as Crossgar piled on the pressure and had their opponents on the back foot.

The game was billed as a Super Saturday clash and it lived up to all expectations. Both sides went for the win in a thrilling game which Down won because they converted the chances they created at two crucial points in the game.

Still missing Aaron Minnis, Down were dealt a blow when Chris Taylor was ruled out through illness, as for Crossgar, they were forced to start with the bare 11 until Nigel Patterson arrived midway through the first half.

The first chance of the game fell to Down following a short corner awarded to Crossgar. Nigel Jackson lost possession and when the ball was drilled to Chris Lennon, he whipped in a superb cross which just evaded Gibson at the back post.

Another quick Down free saw Ferguson pick out Lennon again and Mark Elliott was unlucky not to get on the end of his cross. Crossgar were struggling to get out of their own half at this stage, with defenders Philip Cheevers, Jackson and Gary Donaldson having to work overtime.

Stephen Tate, who was playing alongside Gareth Lennon up front for Crossgar, almost created a half chance for his side. Ferguson then robbed Paul Fenton and his pinpoint cross picked out Paul Tate whose flicked shot was saved by Patterson.

It looked as though a goal was coming and Down took the lead in the 17th minute. Tate and Elliott both went close and while the latter was fouled, the umpire waved play on as Down were in possession and when the ball was fired goalwards, Gibson nipped in to push it over the line. Cheevers then had to be alert to snuff out Neill who was bearing in on goal after being sent clear by Gibson.

Crossgar skipper, Gary Tate, then went on a penetrating run and slipped the ball to Lennon who lost control at the vital moment. At the other end, Patterson produced two point blank saves to deny Tate and Elliott, while Johnston had to get down low to his right to deny Lennon what looked like a certain equaliser.

The save proved a crucial turning point as five minutes later, Down were 2-0 ahead with the goal coming after the umpire awarded a short corner and blew for the end of the half.

The ball came to Gibson via Lennon and he flicked it past the unsighted Patterson into the bottom corner of the net for his second goal, leaving Crossgar with a mountain to climb.

The home team came out for the second period determined to haul themselves back into the game and they created more chances than their opponents over the 35 minutes. But it was Down who almost scored with the first attack.

Gavin Ringland's run took him deep into the Crossgar penalty area and his pass to Gibson saw the striker denied his hat-trick by Patterson who produced a great save.

Mervyn Patterson then combined with Tate but the sweeping move broke down at the edge of the penalty area, allowing Erskine to clear the danger.

It was end-to-end stuff at this stage and Patterson produced another great save to deny Neill when it looked as though the midfielder was about to give his side an unassailable 3-0 lead.

Patterson then denied Ringland with the rebound drilled past the wrong side of the post. At this stage, Crossgar committed more men forward and they started to pin the Down defence in their own penalty area.

Gary Tate was about to shoot when the ball was cleared by Erskine and then Spratt was denied by Alasdair Duff who got in a great tackle. Neill, Elliott and Ringland then conjured up a chance with Elliott unlucky not to make it 3-0.

In the closing stages, it was all Crossgar who were unlucky not to score. Johnston had to be alert to keep out a drive from Spratt and then produced a smart double save to deny both Gary Tate and Jackson who had moved up front in the closing stages.

Down were made to work extremely hard for the win and if they are to maintain their push for promotion, they can't afford to take their foot off the gas this Saturday at home to Omagh. As for Crossgar, it's any away trip to the Demesne in Saintfield when they will be looking to get back on track.