Linfield breeze past Dungannon to reach League Cup quarter-finals
Dungannon Swifts 0 Linfield 4
Holders Linfield eased through to the quarter-finals of the League Cup after a comfortable win at Dungannon.
The Blues were always in control of a one-sided tie between the last two winners of the trophy.
Stephen Fallon set the tone with a goal inside five minutes, with Jimmy Callacher ramming home their superiority soon afterwards.
Dungannon briefly rallied, but further goals from Joel Cooper and Andy Waterworth in the second half sealed the rout.
It was a frustrating night for the Swifts, who had to hand a debut to 16-year-old goalkeeper Conor Byrne at late notice.
He was caught out for the opening goal but went on to make some good saves.
For David Healy, though, it was a pleasing response to Friday night’s defeat at Crusaders.
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His side played some good stuff in spells, although Dungannon didn’t help themselves with their defending.
They were at fault for the crucial first, scored by Fallon after just five minutes.
After Dungannon lost possession from a throw, Bastion Hery played it back to the midfielder. He let the ball drop before hitting a right-foot strike which took an awkward bounce in front of Byrne, catching out the young goalkeeper.
Byrne had been drafted into the starting line-up at the last minute after regular stopper Sam Johnston was injured in the warm-up.
It was a tough baptism for the teenager, playing his first senior game for the Swifts.
He was beaten again as the Blues doubled their lead in the 14th minute.
Again Dungannon caused their own problems, with Seanan Clucas going in strongly on Andy Waterworth, drawing a free-kick.
From the set-piece, Kirk Millar sent in a dangerous cross which was flicked on to Callacher, who scored with a back-post tap-in.
It was already shaping up to be a difficult night for Dungannon, who have been conceding goals at an alarming rate in recent weeks.
But their response was encouraging, with a 30-yard effort from Clucas flashing just wide.
Sean Noble, making his first start after a 14-month injury lay-off, did well to cut in from the left and test goalkeeper Gareth Deane.
As the Swifts finally got going, Kris Lowe glanced a cross from Michael Carvill at Deane.
Noble then played in Lowe, but he couldn’t get his shot away, while Rhyss Campbell’s low drive was wide of the back post.
Dungannon boss Kris Lindsay would have been happy - but for the poor start which left them two goals down and Linfield in control.
And the Blues started the second period with the same positive intent.
Cooper drove down the left and sent in a cross which took a deflection, and Byrne did well to tip it away.
They suffered a setback when Hery was forced off with a nasty nose injury following a clash of heads, with Andy Mitchell brought on.
But the Blues pressed on, and Cooper made sure of their progress just before the hour.
Again Dungannon were exposed at the back, as Millar’s corner found the winger unmarked six yards out, and he headed home.
Linfield pushed for more, and Byrne made a good one-handed stop to deny Fallon.
Soon afterwards Cooper turned one way, then the other, before unleashing a powerful effort which Byrne touched on to the post.
Linfield added goal number four in the 76th minute.
Waterworth made it look so easy as he took down a cross from Ryan McGivern, turned smartly and shot into the bottom corner.
On the sidelines, a relaxed Healy applauded warmly.
The sides meet again in the league on Saturday, and the Blues boss will hope for more of the same.
DGN SWIFTS: Byrne, Coyle, Byers, King, Teggart, Clucas (Gallagher, 74), Smyth, Lowe, Campbell, Noble (Hughes, 71), Carvill (Taylor, 81)
Subs not used: Addis, Redman, Patton, Harwood
LINFIELD: Deane, Quinnm Clarke, Callacher, McGivern, Fallon (Shevlin, 73), Mulgrew, Hery (Mitchell, 51), Cooper, Quinn, Millar, Waterworth (Allen, 79)
Subs not used: Moore, Larkin, Reynolds
Referee: Steven Gregg (Ballyclare)
MOTM: Joel Cooper
Match rating: 6/10
Belfast Telegraph Digital