Joel Cooper shines as Linfield see off Institute
Linfield 3, Institute 0
Champions Linfield easily got back to winning ways with a comfortable victory over lowly Institute.
David Healy's men, who went into the game without a win in their last three matches, started on the front foot and their attacking 3-5-2 formation, meant they really had the game wrapped up at half-time thanks to Andy Waterworth and Mark Haughey's goals.
In what was a lack lustre second half performance by the Blues, they still missed a host of chances before Shayne Lavery finally got himself on the score-sheet.
As for the Waterside men they kept working hard throughout, but in truth never really tested Blues keeper Rohan Ferguson throughout the 90 minutes and that lack of quality has to be concerning for the boss Sean Connor
Linfield made five changes from their draw at Coleraine with Mark Haughey, Joel Cooper, Bastien Hery and Matthew Clarke all coming into the starting line-up.
As for the visitors they gave debuts to youngster Oran Brogan and new signing Alex Pomeroy, as manager Connor looked to end a dreadful run of six defeats in their previous seven outings.
The home side started with a very attacking formation and they went close on 12 minutes as Kirk Millar's left wing corner wasn't cleared by 'Stute and Haughey was unable to turn the ball home from close range, after the ball seem to just hit and sail over the crossbar.
Moments later Hery's 25 yard stinging drive, after Cooper had picked out the ex-Waterford man, but his low drive was kept out by a diving Rory Brown.
Brown had to make another top save on 23 minutes as Millar's right wing corner found Lavery, but the striker's powerful header from 10 yards was parried away by the 'Stute keeper.
The Belfast men took the lead seven minutes as Cooper, who had switched wings, easily skipped away from Colm McLaughlin, before being brought down inside the box by Dean Curry and referee Lee Tavinder pointed to the spot and that man Waterworth made no mistake with the resulting effort, side footing home into Brown's left hand corner.
Soon after Waterworth turned provider as he released Lavery, the N Ireland international got half a yard away from Brogan before seeing his stinging effort from just inside the box was superbly tipped over by Brown.
Millar's resulting left wing corner resulted in the Blues doubling their lead as Waterworth's flick on at the near post found an unmarked Haughey, who rifted home from close range, at the back post.
Right on the stroke of half-time Daniel Kearns should have scored a third, but the former Dundalk man headed over from close range, after Millar's left wing centre had picked him out.
Brown then in stoppage time had to make another big save this time diving to his left to keep out Cooper's strike.
Linfield should have netted a third right at the start of the second half, but after breaking the offside trap Lavery blasted wide with only Brown to beat.
More good play by the lively Cooper on 50 minutes saw the winger get away from Brogan and Jack Bradley, before cutting the ball back to an unmarked Lavery, but his side footed strike was deflected behind for a corner.
The woodwork came to 'Stute's minutes later as Millar's superb delivery from the right was glanced goalwards by Haughey, but the ball came back off the post and Brown grabbed the loose ball.
Just after the hour mark Linfield wasted another chance to increase their lead as Waterworth raced clear, but the front man was denied by a diving Brown.
Man of the match Cooper created Linfield's third goal on 71 minutes, as he raced away from his marker before cutting the ball back to substitute Jordan Stewart, his close range strike was outstandingly kept out by Brown, but Lavery was on hand to turn home the loose ball from four yards.
Brown, who had a very busy afternoon, had to make another smart stop on 83 minutes as Lavery's volley from 10 yards was pushed around the post by the keeper.
Linfield were inches away from grabbing a fourth, but substitute Ross Larkin's close range volley was outstandingly kept out by Brown.
Linfield: Ferguson, Haughey (Larkin 84), Callacher, M Clarke; Millar, Mulgrew, Hery, Kearns (Stewart 69), Cooper; Waterworth (Shevlin 72), Lavery,
Institute: R Brown, Brogan (Green 89), Crown, D Curry, C McLaughlin; Bradley, Burke (McIntyre 72), McCauley, McCready, B McLaughlin; Pomeroy (Dunne 82).
Referee: Lee Tavinder (Dungannon).