Win welcome but more work to do: Tally
Down 0-10 Westmeath 0-9
The Allianz Football League will now enter a two-week break but for Down manager Paddy Tally this simply means more work than ever.
An opening day setback against Laois has been followed by nerve-shredding wins over Sligo and Westmeath but for all his side's perceived shortcomings, former Tyrone All-Ireland winner Tally is only too happy to embrace the positives.
"We have a lot of boys still to come back from injuries so maybe the fortnight's break will not do us any harm," mused Tally. "I don't think it will affect the lads because we are sitting on two wins but we know that we still have plenty of work to do."
"We will get a little more time to reflect because when the league hots up we will be going flat out. It will be good to take stock of things now and get some of those who have been out back on board."
Once again Down had to work overtime - literally - in subduing the lively challenge of a Westmeath who entered the weekend encounter at Newry bolstered by seven straight wins.
Down may have had home advantage but it counted for little in the first half when rookie goalkeeper Rory Burns spared their blushes by saving a Ger Egan penalty before Pat Havern was red carded after a clash with Westmeath goalkeeper Eoin Carberry. Behind 0-5 to 0-4 at the break and singularly lacking in ideas up front, Down adopted a more adventurous stance after the break with substitute Conor McGinn picking out colleagues with precision deliveries.
A brace of Ryan Johnston points allied to earlier scores from Donal O'Hare (2) and Kevin McKernan kept Down in touch yet Egan's accuracy from frees and the scoring touch of Sam Duncan had much to do with the sides being deadlocked at 0-9 each at the end of normal time.
But it was another substitute Jerome Johnston who was to prove the ace in the Mourne side's pack in added time by steering over a point from a 'mark' awarded far out on the touchline.
His winner was hailed more with relief than ecstasy - Down, after all, are not known for troubling the trophy engravers but nonetheless the scent of promotion is very much in their nostrils just now.
Yet with potentially difficult matches on the horizon manager Tally is more concerned about eliciting consistency from his side following the start-stop course they charted last year which ultimately saw them surrender their Division Two status.
"I thought it was very heartening that way boys came off the bench and changed the nature of this game against Westmeath," insisted Tally.
"They gave us that little bit extra going forward. Earlier on the game had been very cagey because neither side could afford to lose but we are very thankful we got over the line in the end. I think the match will also serve to step up competition for places."
Down scorers: D O'Hare 0-4 (4f), R Johnston 0-3, C Poland, K McKernan, J Johnston 0-1 each.
Westmeath scorers: G Fegan 0-3 (3f), S Duncan 0-2, J Dolan, B Sayeh, R O'Toole, L Loughlin 0-1 each.
Referee: David Gough (Meath) .