Linfield 3, Carrick Rangers 0
LINFIELD remain hot on the heels of league leaders, Crusaders as they moved back into second spot with a comfortable victory over Carrick Rangers at Windsor Park.
Andy Waterworth netted a brace of goals while Mark Stafford made sure of the points when he headed home a third early in the second half.
It was Carrick who started brightest and when Steven McCullough’s corner was met by a glancing Chris Morrow header the Blues were relieved to see the ball sail across the face of the goalmouth and go wide.
Linfield then broke the deadlock on 25 minutes when Waterworth side-footed home after Stephen Lowry capitalised on a mistake in the Carrick midfield.
Waterworth almost doubled his tally but he fired over the bar from 16 yards.
The second goal did arrive on 54 minutes when Kirk Millar delivered an inch-perfect cross and Waterworth ghosted in to fire the ball into the corner.
Paul Smyth then made a chance out of nothing, picking Paddy McNally’s pocket, turning swiftly and firing a low left-footed effort that was well tipped around the post by Brian Neeson.
From the resulting corner the Blues added a third. Kirk Millar again the provider, this time sending in an inviting corner for Mark Stafford to power a header into the corner.
Lowry almost got in on the act to add a goal to a fine performance, however his snapshot from Millar’s pass was tipped onto the roof of the net by Neeson.
Carrick almost netted a consolation late on through a long-range effort from Gary Lavery but his effort sailed a few yards wide of goal.
Overall it was a comfortable win for the Blues who really didn’t have to get out of second gear.
Linfield: Carroll, Haughey, Stafford, Callacher, Quinn (M. Clarke 84), Lowry, Ward, Mulgrew (Frazer 73), Millar Smyth (Burns 85), Waterworth; Subs not used: Casement, Gaynor.
Carrick Rangers: Neeson; Chapman, McCullough, Surgenor, McNally, Hanley (Green 45), Rice, Wilson, Kelly, Morrow (Taggart 59), McNicholl (G.Lavery 71); Subs not used: McCaul, Knox.