COUNTY Down opened up their Milk Cup campaign with an agonising 2-1 defeat to holders Everton at Parkway in Comber on Saturday.
Down led through Michael Johnston, but conceded twice in the closing stages.
Conor Hazard showed a safe pair of hands three minutes into the match, saving a 20-yard shot from Everton’s Ryan Ledson.
The locals went close to scoring five minutes later. Midfielder Matthew Dempster tried his luck from long range. With Everton keeper James Talbot beaten, the ball whizzed just over.
With 10 minutes to go until half-time Hazard made a smart save from Ledson, diving low to his left.
County Down were rejuvenated at the break. Michael Johnston very nearly opened the scoring after 38 minutes. Played in by James Coffey, Johnston’s shot came back off the foot of the Everton post.
Johnston wasn’t to be denied however. Toffees’ keeper Talbot misplaced his pass and Johnston buried the ball into the corner to give Down a deserved lead.
Everton equalised with a well-worked breakaway goal eight minutes later. Left-back Charlie Edge crossed for Jon Joe Kenny to head home at the back post.
The visitors scored the winner with nine minutes to go. Liam Walsh’s precise pass found George Newell, who slotted into the bottom corner past Hazard.
County Down team: Hazard, Tate, Martyn, Noble-Walker, Byers, Power, Dempster, Drylie, Turkington, Coffey, Johnston. Subs: Walsh, Brownlee, Gray, McAnespie, McGovern, Salley, Ward.