A double treble yell as Linfield close gap
Look out Coleraine, Crusaders and Cliftonville, they’re behind you. Linfield are now on the coat-tails of the top three sides in the Danske Bank Premiership and still have two games in hand.
The champions were far too strong for bottom club Warrenpoint Town at Windsor Park with brilliant hat-tricks from Shayne Lavery and Joel Cooper and a Stephen Fallon strike earning them a third league win in a row.
The comfortable victory saw David Healy’s men move to within just two points of leaders Coleraine and Crusaders, who are separated by goal difference, and one adrift of Cliftonville.
Linfield’s incredible run in the Europa League earlier in the season has led to them playing catch-up. They very nearly have.
On Saturday, the Blues travel to the Showgrounds to face Oran Kearney’s unbeaten Bannsiders in what promises to be an epic.
It’s the Irish League’s Invincibles versus the European heroes and how Linfield would love to inflict a first defeat of the campaign on Kearney’s side.
While Healy and Kearney desire title glory, Warrenpoint boss Stephen McDonnell is only concerned with keeping his side in the top flight.
They have played 12 league games so far this season and won only once — a thrilling encounter at home to Dungannon Swifts.
The Windsor Park clash always looked like it was going to be mission impossible for the Milltown men. A much more important fixture for them comes at the weekend when they visit relegation rivals Carrick Rangers.
Niall Currie’s side have nine points compared to Warrenpoint’s three, so it is a massive match for both, with Institute sandwiched in between on five.
The strategy at Windsor was to defend for their lives. Just nine minutes in, though, Town were behind after being unlocked by some neat passing from the Blues before Fallon’s strike crept into the net.
That lead could have been doubled moments later after Cooper’s fabulous volleyed cross was headed goalwards by Lavery only for Berraat Turker to pull off an acrobatic save.
Shortly after, the Warrenpoint goalkeeper produced another eye-catching stop to deny the Northern Ireland striker.
It was third time lucky for Lavery on 23 minutes when he smashed home after dazzling wing play from Cooper.
Linfield’s dominance was total. Home goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson could have taken a nap in his own box without fear because Warrenpoint simply weren’t able to get out of their own half.
It was a case of how many for Healy’s players. From long range, Ryan McGivern forced Turker into a fine save and headed just wide. In between, Matthew Clarke and Cooper were both off target.
On the stroke of half-time, Lavery added to the tally with a cheeky back-heel. The former Everton ace chased a long ball from Bastien Hery and, when Turker failed to collect, Lavery, with his back to goal, supplied an inventive finish.
Lavery’s hat-trick goal came on 50 minutes with a powerful drive. Warrenpoint players were relieved to see him substituted seven minutes later. The pain didn’t end, with Cooper nodding in on 61 minutes after a corner.
Linfield’s No.9 superbly turned in Kirk Millar’s cross on 83 minutes and then smashed home a beauty on 88 minutes.
A magnificent seven for the rampant Blues, just like they produced at home to Glenavon, and trebles for Lavery and Cooper.