Cliftonville paid the price for a below-par opening to this afternoon’s Danske Bank Premiership clash with Linfield at Windsor Park.
It wasn’t until Jimmy Callacher and Andy Waterworth had fired the Blues 2-0 up that the visitors discovered any kind of stride and Joe Gormley’s strike just before half-time offered hope of a comeback.
A bright start to the second period failed to yield a leveller, with Waterworth restoring Linfield’s two-goal advantage before Jamie Harney once again reduced the arrears ahead of Waterworth sealing his hat-trick to complete the scoring.
The Blues might have opened the scoring just before a quarter-of-an-hour had elapsed when Joel Cooper’s cross fell to Kirk Millar but he could only send the ball wide from six yards.
Millar atoned three minutes later, however, with a successfully delivered corner which Callacher met to glance a header past Brian Neeson from close range.
The Blues could have doubled their lead after half-an-hour with Millar again involved, this time with a cross for Waterworth to nod just wide of the goal.
Waterworth went one better on 36 minutes after he was allowed to run unchecked to get on the end of a Cooper pass to squeeze the ball inside the post with his right foot.
Cliftonville were thrown a lifeline just before the break when, at the end of a free-flowing move, Gormley fired past Roy Carroll to reduce the arrears.
Linfield restored their two-goal advantage on the hour, however, when Waterworth doubled his tally with a header from another Millar ball.
Back came Cliftonville again barely two minutes later with Rory Donnelly nodding Chris Curran’s corner into the path of Harney, who steered the ball home.
The game was effectively ended as a contest with nine minutes to go, though, with Waterworth’s hat-trick goal. Jamie Mulgrew initially found Niall Quinn with an inch perfect pass and he, in turn, laid the ball off for Waterworth to sweep into the net.
Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Harney, C Curran, R Donnelly, McDonald, Bagnall, Catney, Gormley, J Donnelly, Subs: Breen (McGovern, 60 mins), Harkin, R Curran (McDonald, 70 mins), Garrett, McConnell (R Donnelly, 84 mins), Lavery, Maguire.