Irish Premiership: Waterworth hits four as Linfield thump Swifts to move nine clear
Andrew Waterworth hit four goals as an emphatic Linfield hammered Dungannon Swifts 5-0 to move nine points clear at the top of the Irish Premiership table.
The Blues raced into a 2-0 lead after 11 minutes through a Waterworth double, with the impressive Jordan Stewart providing the assist both times.
Jimmy Callacher added a header to give David Healy's men a three-goal lead at the interval.
Waterworth scored two more close-range efforts to secure an easy Linfield win.
The victory sees the Blues once again move nine points ahead of Ballymena United in the race for the Premiership title, with the second-placed Sky Blues having played a game less.
The Swifts were toothless throughout and remain in eighth as they missed the opportunity to move ahead of Glentoran and into the European play-off spot of seventh.
Clinical Blues far too strong for Swifts
If Linfield had any title-chasing nerves going into the match, it certainly did not show during a breathtaking start which saw them go 2-0 up after 11 minutes.
Stewart played an integral role in both of the first goals, with the former Swindon Town wide man producing superb wing play to set up the opener in the seventh minute.
He broke through two challenges down the right before digging out an outstanding, curling cross and Waterworth found space between the Swifts' central defenders to plant a header into the bottom corner.
A great run off the ball from the right flank by Stewart led to the second four minutes later. Andrew Mitchell delivered a clever pass inside Swifts full-back Jarlath O'Rourke and Stewart played an unselfish pass inside for Waterworth to roll into an empty net.
The visitors continued to apply relentless pressure and they extended their lead on 25 minutes when a deep free-kick from Mitchell into the box was headed home at the back post by centre-half Callacher for his 10th goal of the campaign.
Waterworth completed the 10th hat-trick of his Linfield career in the 57th minute, heading home after Callacher and Josh Robinson kept a Daniel Kearns cross alive.
The former Glentoran and Lisburn Distillery forward grabbed his 28th of he season and fourth of the game - the fourth time in his career he has scored four goals or more in a match - 18 minutes from time, volleying in a pinpoint cross from Kearns.
Passive hosts fail to threaten throughout
As impressive as Linfield's performance was, Swifts manager Kris Lindsay will no doubt have been hugely disappointed with his side's showing.
While this was a fourth defeat of the season by the Blues for Dungannon, they have pushed them much closer in all three of the previous meetings, with Healy's men passing through the Swifts defence with ease, particularly in a dominant first 45 minutes.
The Swifts knew that a victory would have taken them above Glentoran and into the European play-off spot of seventh, but, having fallen behind early on, they never looked like getting back into the game.
Paul McElroy and Oisin Smyth both went close with shots from distance but when they hit the target it was straight at visiting goalkeeper Gareth Deane, who was able to save comfortably.
It looked like they may have been rallying early in the second period, but once Waterworth made it 4-0 the match once again became a one-sided affair as the two sides headed into the Premiership slip with hugely differing emotions.
What they said
David Healy, Linfield manager: "It's a big performance going into the split. We started at a good tempo and got the goals at the right time. In all the success we have had at the club since I have been here, Andy Waterworth has been a big part of it. By his own admission, at times he should score more, but when he gets in the positions he is hard to beat."
Kris Lindsay, Dungannon Swifts manager: "I have no complaints with that result. It was fully deserved and we will take it on the chin and move on. Linfield were a different class tonight and you can see why they are clear at the top of the table."