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Peter Thompson completes the scoring at Solitude (Picture: William Cherry/PressEye.com)

BLUES INTO DOUBLE FIGURES

LINFIELD stretched their lead at the top of the Carling Premiership into double figures following a gripping defeat of Cliftonville at Solitude.

The game was the only one to go ahead as the winter once more took its grip on the local football schedule and the Blues made the most of it to open up an 11 point gap over the chasing pack.

Things got off to a blistering start with the sides sharing no fewer than four goals inside the first half-an-hour.

Peter Thompson got the ball rolling on 12 minutes when he slotted the ball past John Connolly after Billy Joe Burns had teed him up.

But the Reds levelled three minutes later through a cheeky Chris Scannell back-heel following a Peter Hutton downward header.

And Eddie Patterson's side moved into the lead themselves on 20 minutes after former Blues striker Stephen Garrett headed home a Ronan Scannell cross.

Linfield came roaring back, however, six minutes after that through a low Philip Lowry drive which appeared to deceive Connolly.

There were fears of an abandonment at the break as heavy fog across the venue but referee Mark Courtney correctly allowed the game to proceed as the gloom began to show signs of lifting.

Marcus Kane restored Linfield's lead on 56 minutes when he made the most of a moment of hesitation in the home defence to volley beyond Connolly.

Then, with nine minutes left, Thompson rounded off the scoring with a close range finish at the back post, once again from a Burns delivery.

Cliftonville: Connolly, R. Scannell, Hutton, B. Holland, C. Scannell, Garrett, Caldwell, Johnston, O'Connor, Bradley, McVeigh subs M. Holland, Lynch, Seydak, Donnelly, Jones

Linfield: Blayney, Gault, Murphy, Curran, Lowry, Thompson, B.J. Burns, Garrett, McAllister, Kane, Casement subs Armstrong, A. Burns, Allen, Mulgrew, Munster

Tags:  Cliftonville  Linfield