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Linfield 4 Coleraine 0: Ferguson treble brings down sorry Bannsiders

By Chris Holt

Glenn Ferguson slammed in a hat-trick as Linfield strolled to the top of the Irish Premier League table last night thanks to a comfortable 4-0 win over Coleraine at Windsor Park.

David Jeffrey's men swept aside the Bannsiders, who were never at the races and secured the victory before half-time with two goals from Ferguson - one from the spot - either side of Paul McAreavey's cool finish.

Ferguson completed his treble with five minutes to go leaving the 38-year-old just three shy of an incredible 500 career goals.

The Blues got off to the best possible start as within five minutes they were one up.

And it became very clear early on as to why Coleraine have been conceding so many goals of late.

A long, high, hopeful punt forward by William Murphy caught the Bannsiders' defence flatfooted and there are few worse men in the league to leave standing on their own than Ferguson.

Goalkeeper Laurence McCormick came rushing out and almost blocked the striker's pass, but he got a second chance and rolled the ball into the now empty net from just outside the box.

The ease in which the opening strike arrived will have given Bluemen hope that a goal avalanche was on the horizon, however, just a couple of minutes later Coleraine could have been level but for the amazing agility of Linfield goalkeeper Alan Mannus.

The home defence showed a little lapse in concentration and Damian Whitehead got a sniff of a chance. Mannus saved well, rushing out of goal but Darren Boyce was following up.

The ball just wouldn't fall for him and that allowed the Northern Ireland stopper to make another superb diving save. Whitehead had another go which was also blocked before Tommy McCallion fired well wide.

That amazing sequence of events turned out to be a very rare soirée in the Blue's goalmouth as Linfield then seemingly attacked at will.

It really was a walk in the park for Linfield and they were clearly enjoying the freedom that Marty Quinn's side were giving them.

There was no need for the champions to grind out this win, the Bannsiders were very poor - their midfield offering no protection to the backline and the defence could barely cope with the incessant pressure.

To concentrate too much on the failings of the visitors would be unfair on Linfield though as at times they played some wonderful stuff.

None more so than the move which led to their second goal.

McAreavey, as usual pulling the strings in the middle of the park, showed neat control before passing to Peter Thompson in the box.

The striker took a touch and waited for McAreavey to make his run before slipping the ball in behind the defence for the midfielder to stroke home.

They made it look so easy and in truth it really was.

Six minutes before half time it was 3-0 and game, set and match. Referee Brian Turkington pointed to the spot when McCallion upended Mouncey in the box and Ferguson stepped up to dispatch with ease.

The Blues already had the game won and were more than relaxed while Coleraine, try as they might, were never going to get anything from this.

The night belonged to Ferguson as he rattled in his third on 85 minutes with a fine strike to put a cap on a sterling display from the champions, perhaps giving them a psychological advantage at the top going into the crucial Christmas period.

Linfield: Mannus, Douglas, Murphy, Bailie, McShane, Mouncey, McAreavey, Gault, O'Kane, Ferguson, Thompson. Substitutes: Curran, Dickson, Stewart, Ervin, Lindsay.

Coleraine: McCormick, Clanachan, Cassidy, Gaston, McVey, Boyce, McCallion, Watt, Whitehead, Heneghan, Neill. Substitutes: McLaughlin, Anderson, Carson, Patton, Hutchinson.

Referee: Brian Turkington (Belfast).

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