Institute pay the penalty as Linfield secure the points
Institute 0, Linfield 3
Linfield got back to winning ways after seeing off a ten men Institute, in a bizarre encounter, at a bitterly cold Brandywell.
David Healy's side were amazingly awarded three penalties, by referee Raymond Crangle and the home side also deservedly had right-back Ryan Morrow red carded.
The score-line didn't reflect the champions performance, who in truth didn't play well and by for some important saves in the second half from goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson, things might have been a little bit more comfortable for the Blues.
Linfield made two changes to their side which loss to Dundalk on Monday evening, with Mark Stafford and Joel Cooper replacing Joshua Robinson, who was amongst the substitutes and Jamie Mulgrew, wasn't in the squad.
Institute manager Sean Connor kept faith with the same side that picked up two hard fought draws against Crusaders and Glentoran, as he selected the same team for the third week running.
David Healy's side were forced into making a change on 18 minutes after Aidan McCauley's tough tackle on Niall Quinn, resulted in the Blues' man being substituted by Andrew Mitchell.
Soon after some neat defending by Conor Tourish denied Andy Waterworth a clear opening, as the ’Stute centre-back’s sliding challenging inside the box, saw the ball being easily cleared by Brown.
'Stute went close themselves just after the mid-way point of the half as McCauley's 25 yard drive was easily kept out by a diving Rohan Ferguson.
Linfield missed a super chance to take the lead in what would have been controversial circumstances on 35 minutes after Joel Cooper seemed to go over rather easily after Ryan Morrow seemed to barely touch the winger inside the box, however Raymond Crangle, very quickly pointed to the spot.
The home side will feel justice was done as Cooper’s resulting penalty was superbly kept out by Brown, who dived to his left to save.
Amazingly the Belfast men were awarded a second penalty on 39 minutes after Morrow clashed with Jimmy Callacher off the ball incident the box, which also resulted in the ’Stute right-back being given a straight red card.
This time Waterworth made no mistake with a panenka style penalty, giving the diving Brown, no chance.
With a man advantage Linfield added a second right on the stroke of half-time, as ex-Waterford midfielder Basiten Hery, created himself some space on the edge of the box, before blasting the ball in off the post.
To their credit the ten men went close to pulling a goal back on 52 minutes as McCauley's free-kick was headed goalwards by Joe McCready, but Ferguson did well to tip the effort over the bar.
Linfield went virtually straight up the other end as Chris Casement saw his right wing cross find an unmarked Waterworth, but his close range strike was straight at Brown.
Ferguson was called into action on 66 minutes when McCready did well to find some room on the edge of the box, before seeing his curling strike outstandingly tipped around his left hand post by the Linfield keeper.
Not for the first time in the game Ferguson denied McCready, as the Blues net-minder tipped over the striker's 20 yard curling free-kick.
On 84 minutes Casement was inches away from adding, what would have been an undeserved third goal for the Linfield, as Cooper's left wing cross picked out the right-back at the back post, but he headed just wide from close range.
Six minutes later a Millar left wing free-kick was whipped into the box and Mark Stafford's header, which had Brown beaten, came back off the post.
Linfield were awarded their third spot-kick deep into stoppage time as Cooper was brought down inside the box by Graham Crown and Waterworth slotted home his second from the spot, firing into Brown’s right hand corner.
Institute: R Brown, Morrow, Crown, Tourish, Curry; Bradley (McNamee 56), Grace, McCauley (Stephenson 80), Bradley; G Brown, McCready.
Linfield: Ferguson, Casement, Stafford, Callacher, Clarke; Fallon, Hery (Allen 74); Millar, Cooper, Quinn (Mitchell 18); Waterworth.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast).