LINFIELD 3 GLENTORAN 0
Linfield’s title challenge is still very much on the boil.
David Healy’s boys won the Big Two bragging rights with this win over rivals Glentoran to edge a little bit closer to table toppers Crusaders.
Goals by Ross Gaynor, who bagged a brace, and Aaron Burns sealed the deal for the Blues, were were given a standing ovation at the finish.
Healy was had to make three changes to the team that enjoyed an impressive Irish Cup win at Solitude last week.
Goalkeeper Gareth Deane sustained a broken finger in training on Thursday night, while Jimmy Callacher and Paul Smyth were both suspended.
Ross Glendinning returned between the posts, while Kirk Millar and Michael McLellan were handed starting slots.
Following their horrible defeat by Cliftonville last time out, Glentoran boss Alan Kernaghan recalled Fra McCaffrey in place of Jonathan Smith, who had to settle for a place on the bench.
Andy Waterworth wheeled away to celebrate a goal after only five minutes when he headed home after Ross Gaynor’s shot was saved by Elliott Morris. But the big striker had strayed into an offsiee position.
The Blues made the took the lead on 21 minutes when referee Ian McNabb awarded a penalty kick, having spotted a handball offence by Marcus Kane as a posse of players attempted to meet a Millar corner kick. Gaynor made no mistake from the spot.
Waterworth should have doubled the Blues lead when he motored on to a super little flick by Gaynor, but he could only shoot against the body of Elliott Morris.
Giant defender Mark Stafford almost grabbed that vital second goal before the break, but his header, from a Millar corner kick, screamed inches over the crossbar.
Glentoran had to wait until 49 minutes for their first sniff at goal. Chris Lavery’s cross found its way to the unmarked McCaffrey, but he could only head wide.
But the action quickly moved to the other end, with Waterworth stinging the hands of Morris with a low drive.
Stafford was then only inches of claiming a second goal. He held his head in frustration after seeing his effort roar past the post.
Glentoran were reduced to 10 men eight minutes from time when Calum Birney, who was yellow carded only seconds earlier, picked up a second yellow card following a clash with Stafford.
And their day of misery was complete when Morris’ botched clearance was picked up by substitute Burns, who expertly drilled home a beauty form the edge of the box.
Gaynor finished the job on 92 minutes when he finished in some style after being put through by Burns.
Linfield: Ross Glendinning, Stafford, Haughey, Waterworth (Lowry 88), McLellan (Bates 67), Millar (Burns 77), Ward, Clarke, Mulgrew, Reece Glendinning, Gaynor.
Subs not used: Lowry, Kee, Fallon.
Glentoran: Morris, Holland, Kane, Magee, Birney, Rice, Addis (Morrow 70), Caldwell (Smith 73), Lavery (Scullion 63), Allen, McCaffrey.
Subs not used: Gibson, Hogg.
Referee: I McNabb (Newtownabbey).