CLINICAL BLUES GO SIX CLEAR
Linfield moved six points clear at the top of the table after coming from behind to comfortably beat Ballymena United at The Showgrounds.
The opening exchanges produced little by way of scoring opportunities for either side, but that all changed on 19 minutes when Joe McCready opened the scoring for Ballymena. He bagged his first goal for the club after getting past his marker before curling the ball beyond Rohan Ferguson with the outside of his foot.
But Linfield needed just five minutes to get back on level terms through Mark Haughey after he connected with a corner to head home from close range.
The visitors almost added a second soon after when Jordan Stewart created space before seeing a powerful shot tipped over by Ross Glendinning quickly followed by a Jimmy Callacher header.
At the other end McCready saw a low 20-yard effort pushed wide by Rohan Ferguson.
However, Linfield struck again on the stroke of half-time. Joel Cooper embarked on a mazy run into the box, his shot was parried by Glendinning but only as far as Stewart who duly responded with a calm finish into the net.
The second half got off to a scrappy start with Ballymena's Steven McCullough creating the best of what chances were created with a looping header following by a 25-yard free-kick which fell inches wide.
But any thoughts the home fans had of witnessing a comeback were thwarted when Linfield bagged two more goals midway through the half.
Jimmy Callacher made it 3-1 on 74 minutes at the back post after Haughey had flicked on Niall Quinn's inswinging corner before, with ten minutes to go, Andy Waterworth smashed in a fourth after Cooper's initial effort had been tipped onto the crossbar.
McCready might have grabbed a late consolation for Ballymena but his goalbound header was cleared off the line by Quinn while, in the closing moments, only the woodwork denied Linfield a fifth when Cooper's shot was deflected onto the crossbar with Millar's follow up saved.
Ballymena United: Ross Glendinning, T. Kane, Whiteside, Andrew Burns, McCready, McGrory, Balmer, Lecky, Millar, Kelly, Lavery subs Williamson (not used), Addis (not used), Friel (replaced Andrew Burns 78), Knowles (not used), McCullough (replaced Millar 46), Winchester (not used), Reece Glendinning (not used)
Linfield: Ferguson, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Cooper, Stewart, Millar, McClean, Fallon, Quinn, Casement subs Moore (not used), Stafford (not used), Clarke (replaced Stewart 75), Kearns (not used), Hery (replaced McClean 81), Boyle (not used), Currie (replaced Waterworth 86)