Linfield march unstoppable
Linfield 5 Ards 2: Linfield show no signs of cracking in their insatiable desire to recapture the league title they surrendered to Cliftonville last season.
This five-goal salvo kept them four points ahead of the chasing pack at the top of the table but, more menacingly, they have stretched their unbeaten run to 15 games.
Naturally, David Jeffrey was pleased at the outcome against an Ards side which to their credit never gave up, yet the Blues manager insisted: "We can do better.
"We never reached the same heights as we did in beating Cliftonville [in midweek] but we continue to develop and this is another step forward."
Two set piece goals from fast rising star Niall Quinn, an opportunistic strike from Michael Carvill, an ice-cool Matthew Tipton penalty and a powerful back post header from Kyle McVey wrapped up the points in fine style.
All this after Ards rocked the Blues with Willie Faulkner's lightning strike after just 73 seconds in the wind and rain which lashed Windsor Park .
Jeffrey was magnanimous in victory, paying tribute to the team which helped launch his career, insisting this was no walk in the park.
DJ conceded: "Ards are a decent team with some talented players.
"I knew it would be tough and reminded my players just how difficult it was earlier in the season when the teams met at Dixon Park.
"Back then it was only after 60 minutes that we got ahead through the additional bit of quality in our play."
Despite the margin of defeat, Ards boss Niall Currie went home fairly pleased, insisting: "I didn't think it was a 5-2 game.
"Football-wise, if we continue to play like we did here and cut out the individual errors, we'll be okay."
But he did rue the blunders which he claimed gifted Linfield all five goals.
He argued: "All five were horrendous and from that point of view it was extremely disappointing.
"Every time we got back into the game, we conceded terrible goals.
"We were in the game for long, long periods and I thought our front two, Mitchell and McClelland, were a real handful for Linfield.
"We were brave and did get behind them on numerous occasions, although it was frustrating to get back to 3-2 then, three minutes later, concede another terrible goal.
"It sucks the life out of players."
Ards keeper Graeme McKibbin had a less than spectacular day at the office.
He misjudged the flight of Quinn's free-kick, eventually helping the ball into his own net while attempting to turn it over the bar.
That got the Blues back into the game at 1-1 and later McKibbin impeded the galloping Jamie Mulgrew to concede the penalty which Tipton calmly slotted home to give Linfield a 3-1 lead.
To be fair, McKibbin was left cruelly exposed for Linfield's second goal when the alert Carvill intercepted Andy Smith's misplaced pass and cleverly rounded the keeper.
Substitute Ben Roy raised Ards' hopes when he fired home to make it 3-2 but then came the second of Quinn's exquisitely executed free-kicks, curling the ball round the wall with his magical left foot.
McVey, still with head heavily bandaged from previous wounds, thumped home a late back post header for Linfield's fifth.
While Currie agreed McKibbin has had better days, he reasoned: "He's a young boy and we have a lot of faith in him.
"He has fantastic potential and this will have been a big learning experience."
Ards goalscorer Willie Faulkner was forced to make an early exit from the game when son Luca was rushed to the Royal Victoria hospital for treatment on a heart condition.
Club chairman Brian Adams left the directors box to speak to manager Niall Currie on the touchline ahead of Faulkner being summoned aside and substituted.
Mercifully, five-month-old Luca soon showed signs of improvement, much to the relief of the midfielder and partner Melissa.
"In the circumstances the result is unimportant," said Ards boss Currie.
"I thought something was up when I saw my chairman walking up the side of the pitch. My only thoughts are with Willie and his family circle."
Linfield manager David Jeffrey said: "What happened had a profound effect on everyone. It puts things into perspective."
Linfield: Tuffey, BJ Burns, McVey, Ward, Quinn, Carvill, Gault (Knowles, 84 mins), Mulgrew, A Burns (Lowry, 58 mins); Tipton (McAllister, 73 mins), Waterworth.
ARDS: McKibbin, Hall, Gibson, J Cully, McCullough, Davidson, Smith, Faulkner (Henderson, 45 mins), Dougan (Roy, 60 mins), Mitchell (McDowell, 80 mins), McClelland.
Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)