Hot-shot Dickson does the trick for rampant Linfield
It was the Mark Dickson show at Windsor Park last night as Linfield breezed into the semi-finals of the County Antrim Shield.
Small in stature, Dickson put in the biggest performance since his summer move from Larne to the champions.
The striker scored three goals in what was a brilliant hat-trick.
Thomas Stewart's opener on 16 minutes opened the door for Linfield and before the break after a Dickson double they were 3-0 ahead with the game all but wrapped up.
The fourth goal came early in the second half - Dickson's hat-trick goal - and despite conceding their first goal in nine games, Linfield strolled to victory against 10 men in the last 25 minutes.
There was still time for Northern Ireland international Peter Thompson to come off the bench and make it five.
The Blues settled into the game almost instantly and could have been a couple of goals to the good before they did open the scoring with Stewart and Dickson both having opportunities.
The deadlock was broken when the impressive Stewart moved into the box almost unnoticed to power a header into the net from a Steven Douglas cross, beating Crusaders goalkeeper Neil Armstrong low to the ground from 10 yards.
The Crusaders defence was nowhere to be seen when Dickson got the first of his three on 27 minutes as he collected a through ball and made his way into the box before slotting it past the advancing Armstrong.
Linfield were then gifted the opportunity to extend their lead when captain Noel Bailie, Jamie Mulgrew and Stewart all sprung the offside trap.
Typically unselfish skipper Bailie elected to pass rather than shoot himself and Mulgrew fired wide.
It was 3-0 though on 32 minutes with Dickson again on the scoresheet. He got the better of Colin Coates on the edge of the box to win the ball and after leaving Armstrong stranded on the ground he walked the ball into the net.
Any chances of a Crusaders comeback were killed off on 49 minutes when Dickson controlled and produced a sweet finish to complete what was an excellent treble.
The Linfield defence hadn't conceded a goal since October 14 but that run was ended after a total of 789 minutes when they appeared to switch off and allowed David Rainey to tap in a consolation goal.
Former Linfield youngster Barry Spence then got himself needlessly sent off with 26 minutes remaining to leave the Crues with 10 men. It was hard enough with 11!
Spence had been yellow-carded in the first-half and picked up his second when he returned to the play after being treated off the pitch. He hadn't been given permission by the referee and after robbing Tim Mouncey of possession referee Adrian McCourt showed him the red.
Linfield had scored 11 goals in just two games without international striker Thompson getting on the scoresheet. But within three minutes of being introduced to the action he forced his way past two defenders before poking the ball past Armstrong to record his 13th goal of the season.
He had come on for Dickson, who was given a resounding ovation by the Linfield fans. No doubt the man who grew up just a few hundred yards from Windsor Park will remember last night for a long time.
LINFIELD: Mannus, Douglas, O'Kane, Gault, Murphy, McAreavey, Dickson, Mulgrew, Ferguson, Stewart, Bailie. Subs: Mouncey, Kingsberry, Thompson.
CRUSADERS: Armstrong, Magowan, McBride, Spence, Coates, Dunlop, Munster, McAllister, Larmour, Rainey, Gargin. Subs: Shaw, Beggs, Crawford.
Referee: Adrian McCourt (Bangor)