Down's senior side got off to a winning start in the first Senior Two game of 2015 at Malone Park.

Thankfully a heavy sleet shower blew over just before the game got underway last Saturday, with the locals grateful for all three points. But their finishing needs to improve dramatically.

The locals squandered a number of gilt-edged chances in front of goal over the 70 minutes and should have won by an even bigger margin.

That said, Ballymena created a host of chances with their forwards also fluffing their lines. Home 'keeper Jeremy McCready also made a number of important saves.

The visitors opened the scoring after some poor defending at the back with an unmarked forward allowed to pick his spot past McCready in the 10th minute. Down pressed for an equaliser and it came from a penalty corner.

Gavin Ringland, who was superb for Down and easily the side's best outfield player, rounded the Ballymena sweeper and was about to make his way into the penalty area when the player deliberately stopped the ball with his foot.

With no covering defender behind him, the umpire awarded a short and Chris Taylor drilled home the equaliser.

Ringland then picked out Lewis McIntosh but his control let him down at a crucial moment and the chance was gone. Down continued to press but wasted a number of chances, while at the other end, Ballymena missed a glut of chances as a result of some wayward finishing and fine goalkeeping by McCready.

McIntosh, who was a constant threat up front, put the home side ahead for the first time in the game 12 minutes after the restart, but he was also guilty of missing a good chance a short time later.

However, the miss of the day title was won by a country mile by Mark Elliott. Usually deadly from two yards, it looked easier to score, with the 'keeper out of position and the goal at Elliott's mercy, but the Down striker somehow missed the target.

Ballymena gained the upper hand in the middle of the park when Ringland was substituted, but when he returned to the action order was restored. The visitors continued to create chances but were woefully poor in front of goal and when they did break, the final pass often went astray.

Aaron Ferris made it 3-1 for the home side after shots by Elliott and McIntosh were blocked in quick succession, but when the ball fell to Ferris he produced a crisp finish.

The honour of scoring the goal-of-the-game went to Ballymena when a forward's blistering shot flew past McCready before he had time to move and while the visitors created a few late chances and forced a number of short corners, they could not conjure up an equaliser.

Chris Taylor nearly grabbed his second goal late on and with his flick looking destined for the back of the net, a defender managed to deflect the ball wide of the goal for a long corner.

Liam Kearney then had to keep his wits about him at the other end to clear the ball off the line with the Ballymena forwards guilty of ball-watching. McIntosh again went close before Taylor was denied again. A much-needed win for Down who face derby rivals Saintfield at Malone Park this weekend.