Striker Joe Gormley put on a masterclass in finishing as champions Cliftonville secured a 4-0 win over Institute.
The front man scored a hat-trick inside the space of 14 second half minutes, but also managed to hit the wood-work twice and miss a few clear cut chances.
As for Paul Kee’s side, after producing two good displays in their previous outings they never really troubled Cliftonville goalkeeper Conor Devlin, although not for the first time this season they started the first and second half brightly but didn’t score in those crucial periods in the game.
Cliftonville took the lead on five minutes when Martin Donnelly feed Jay Donnelly on the right hand side of the penalty box and his low drive flew past a diving Marty Gallagher.
Minutes later the woodwork came to the visitor’s rescue when Martin Donnelly’s super pass found Gormley, who raced in behind the Stute back-line, but his left footed strike from just inside the box, which had Gallagher beaten, rattled the crossbar.
Cormac Burke went close on 18 minutes but his powerful strike from 20 yards could only be parried around the post by Devlin.
The Waterside men started to have a few chances themselves with Burke in particular going close again, but his drive sailed just over Devlin’s bar.
Just before the half-hour mark McDaid found Martin Donnelly, the winger’s right footed strike was saved by Gallagher.
Right on the stroke of half-time a super free-kick by Devlin, once again caught out the Stute defence this time Dean Curry was caught napping, released Gormley, but his shot from just inside the box hit the post, and with Gallagher on the ground, the striker blasted over the follow-up effort.
McDaid’s super defence splitting pass on 54 minutes released strike partner Gormley and he made no mistake, coolly slotting the ball home past Gallagher from just inside the box.
Moments later Martin Donnelly skipped through a few challenges before finding Gormley, but the frontman failed to hit the target, dragging his shot well wide from 10 yards.
Gormley made up for that miss on 60 minutes when he showed super skill to control Ronan Scannell’s through ball and hold off O’Donnell, before unleasing a low drive past Gallagher.
Gormley completed his third hat-trick in eight games on 68 minutes when he was alert at the back post to turn home Tomas Cosgrove’s right wing centre.
Devlin was called into action 75 minutes when he kept out Stephen Curry’s shot, after the winger had nipped in past substitute Eamon Seydak.
In the closing minutes Stute substitute Ronan Doherty, who looked a breath of fresh air when he came on, saw his close range shot saved by Devlin and Paul McVeigh’s follow-up strike was blocked on the line by Cosgrove.
Cliftonville: Devlin, Cosgrove, McGovern, Flynn (Mulvenna 65), Scannell; J Donnelly, Catney, Winchester (Knowles 76), M Donnelly; McDaid (Seydak 70), Gormley.
Institute: Gallager, McLaughlin, O’Donnell, D Curry; S Curry, Walsh, Crown, Burke, McKeever (Toland 31); McVeigh, Hume (Doherty 65).
Referee: Mr Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon).