Rathfriland Rangers were dealt a second successive heavy defeat as league favourites Downpatrick waltzed away from Iveagh Park with three points on Saturday.
After a disappointing 1-5 defeat away to Dromara Village the previous weekend, the Whites found themselves coming up against this season’s favourites for the NAFL 1A title, a Downpatrick side who were narrowly-beaten finalists in the Border Regiment Cup final just after Christmas.
And the gulf in class was apparent from early on as the visitors dominated possession and grabbed a deserved early lead before doubling that.
As the first-half progressed, the depleted Rathfriland side began to find their feet but Downpatrick were quicker to the ball and more efficient with it and eventually clinched a third goal before the break.
Even with a comeback looking unlikely, the Whites managed to raise their game by a couple of gears and a strong start to the second period brought a handful of chances, which had they been converted could have breathed life into the clash.
Instead, Downpatrick added a fourth when the left-winger cut inside and drilled his shot past Kieran Maguire in the Rathfriland goal, and then a fifth came within 10 minutes.
There was still time, however, for the Whites to claim a consolation goal which their efforts did deserve. Darren McGrath was brought down inside the area, and James Costello crashed his penalty into the right side of the net in off the inside of the post.
But ultimately Rathfriland had been utterly outclassed by a far superior outfit and now a turnaround in form and fortune is needed quickly if the new management team of Alan Fraser and Conan Power are to pull the Rangers from the precarious position they currently find themselves in.
RATHFRILAND RANGERS: Maguire, McDowell, McCourt, Main, Magennis, Lawless, Stewart, Costello, Tumilty, Hillen, McGrath. Subs: O’Reilly, Pollock, Power.