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Hat-trick hero shows Blues there is life after Smyth

Linfield 6 Lisburn Distillery 0

By Steven Beacom

The Linfield faithful chanted 'Rooney, Rooney' at Windsor Park. Forget Everton star Wayne, the Belfast Blues have Northern Ireland Under-21 striker Louis.

And last night he delivered a stunning performance, coming off the bench to score an eight-minute hat-trick as David Healy's men romped to a 6-0 success against Lisburn Distillery in the second round of the League Cup.

That's what you call a dynamic debut.

It's now five wins out of five for Linfield - four in the league and this latest victory in the only competition they failed to triumph in last season.

The Blues have scored 15 times in that handful of fixtures and conceded none. In their latest outing, Matthew Clarke, Andrew Mitchell and Josh Robinson were on target before Rooney stole the show.

Tougher tests are on the way, but right now Healy's men are looking like an extremely dangerous and slick outfit. Confident, too, on the back of last term's treble glory.

Exciting teenage winger Paul Smyth may have moved to QPR, but plenty of firepower remains at Windsor, and worryingly for opposition sides they are capable of scoring from all areas.

Once upon a time, Linfield taking on Distillery was a regular occurrence. Not so now with the Whites, who have a rich history and some famous past players such as Martin O'Neill, having dropped to the third tier of Northern Ireland football.

The difference in class was apparent early on. The only surprise was that it took the Blues 30 minutes to break the deadlock. The reason for that was young Lisburn Distillery goalkeeper Jonah Nicholl, who made a succession of superb saves.

First he denied Stephen Fallon, then came a spectacular stop to keep out Clarke's long-range effort. Nicholl followed that up with a dive to his left to prevent Casement's drive entering the net. Moments later, the Whites No.1 was clawing away a close-range header from Fallon.

The Blues just kept on coming though, and Nicholl could do nothing about Clarke's sharp finish from Fallon's cross.

Aaron Burns almost doubled Linfield's lead but his header crashed against the crossbar after another delivery from Casement, who was causing danger every time he attacked.

The second goal arrived on 40 minutes after the Blues cut their opponents to shreds, with the unmarked Mitchell slamming home from inside the box.

One sour note for the home side in the first half was Kirk Millar being booked for diving.

Their dominance continued after the break with Nicholl busy - an eye-catching save coming when he tipped Jordan Stewart's effort onto the post.

On the hour, Robinson smashed home a cracker from 30 yards - his first goal since his controversial move to the Blues in the summer when at the same time Crusaders claimed he had joined them.

Rooney entered the fray on 63 minutes and netted on 79, 84 and 87 with a glancing header and a couple of close-range efforts. The boy can finish.

The closest the Whites came was when Matthew Ferguson, son of legend Glenn, had a shot blocked. This was a learning experience for the visitors. For the Blues, it was another win. Linfield are on the march.

Linfeild: Deane, Casement, Haughey, Robinson, M Clarke, Millar, Lowry, Mitchell, Burns, Fallon, Stewart. Subs: Rooney for Stewart, Clarke for Millar, Strain for Burns. Subs not used: Callacher, Quinn.

Lisburn Dilstillery: Nicholl, Corry, Moore, Reid, Wharry, Harris, Hislop, McCaw, T Clarke, McMurtry, Ferguson. Subs not used: Simpson for McCaw, Young for Clarke, Beta for Corry. Subs not used: Saunders, Curly.

Referee: Jamie Robinson (Portadown)

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