Goal drought was getting to me, admits Linfield hero Andy Waterworth
Dungannon Sw 0 Linfield 5
A minute's silence for the victims of the Cookstown tragedy put what followed in perspective as Andy Waterworth moved past 150 goals for Linfield as they routed Dungannon to take another big step towards the title.
The striker scored four times in an empathic win for the Blues at Stangmore Park.
The title favourites turned on the style in front of the TV cameras with a performance of real quality. They had the game won inside 25 minutes after racing into a 3-0 lead.
Waterworth grabbed the headlines with his four, but the creativity of Joel Cooper, Jordan Stewart and Daniel Kearns also shone.
Boss David Healy said: "It was a good win, a good performance. At times we have found it difficult here.
"We have scored late winners and needed goals in extra time. So to come in the way we did at half-time, convincingly winning, was very pleasing.
"Sometimes you worry what is going to happen in the second half, but fair play to the lads tonight, they were absolutely terrific."
Waterworth's four goals moved him on to 152 for Linfield, and reminded everyone why it is so important to secure his future at the club.
The striker had been without a goal since hitting the winner in the League Cup final in mid-February.
“I’ve been happy with my performances but I’ve been without goals," he said.
“Obviously when you’re a striker you are judged on goals, and I hadn’t scored. I probably said to the boys there tonight that it was getting to me, so to get off the mark again is good and to get the four is a bonus.”
The win takes the Blues nine points clear at the top.
And while they have played a game more than second placed Ballymena, Healy can be very happy with the state of play going into the split.
Dungannon, meanwhile, have hit a slump after such an impressive start to 2019.
They were poor here, slumping to a defeat that was every bit as comprehensive as the final score suggests.
For boss Kris Lindsay, a former defender and Linfield player, it must have been a particularly difficult watch.
They were 3-0 down inside 25 minutes as the Blues made a flying start. After six minutes Stewart weaved his way down the right. He then delivered a superb cross, and Waterworth came dashing in to head home his first.
The same two combined as Linfield made it 2-0 in the 10th minute. It was a goal of real quality, as Andy Mitchell's superb pass from midfield picked out Stewart, who swept the ball across for Waterworth to convert.
The Blues' front two were running the home defence ragged with their pace and movement. In midfield Linfield had time and space, and were able to pick out passes at will.
And they rammed home their dominance with a third goal in the 25th minute. They won a free-kick wide on the left and Mitchell crossed to the back post, where Jimmy Callacher rose above David Armstrong to head home. It was the defender's 10th goal of the season.
The Blues had other chances with Mitchell shooting straight at goalkeeper Evan Moran and a left-foot effort from Niall Quinn going narrowly wide.
Dungannon desperately needed something to give them a foothold in the game. They had a free-kick in a dangerous position 25 yards from goal, but Dougie Wilson's effort was well over.
Then Paul McElroy tried his luck with a dipping volley, only to see it fall into the arms of goalkeeper Gareth Deane.
Linfield's dominance continued in the second half, and they made it 4-0 in the 57th minute.
Chris Casement's corner wasn't cleared and Kearns kept it alive. His ball was flicked on twice, with Callacher teeing up Waterworth to score with a deft header.
The Blues got their fifth in the 72nd minute.
Again it was Waterworth with the goal, applying a close range finish after a cross from Kearns.
The game long won, Waterworth departed soon afterwards to cheers from the visiting fans.