EASTERN marksman Paul Nixon dug deep into his bag of tricks and produced a masterful hat-trick to condemn British Forces to a 5-0 defeat in a Viceroy Cup first-round tie at Mongkok Stadium yesterday. The skilful striker opened the scoring in the 35th minute with a close-range header and followed up with two cracking long-range drives, first with the right foot, then with the left, to take his season's tally to 14. It also put him in pole position in the race for a $15,000 bonus - the prize for the competition's top scorer after the April 4 Viceroy Cup final. Eastern's other two goals were a Dale Tempest penalty and a towering header from Ross Greer. Tempest heads the goal-scorers chart with 17 in all competitions, three ahead of Nixon, and Greer is next on eight. Nixon left the stadium with the match-ball after notching his first hat-trick since coming to Hongkong two years ago. The 29-year-old former Bristol Rovers striker said: ''It was a nice way to get a hat-trick - one with the right, one with the left and one with the head - and it was a bit of a novelty for me.'' Eastern, who stretched their unbeaten run since the start of the season to 17 games in all competitions, play Kitchee in the first quarter-final next Sunday. The scoreline was cruel on Forces, who were trailing only 1-0 until the 67th minute when referee Fred Wong stunned the crowd by awarding Eastern a penalty. With the ball running dead, Eastern midfielder Tam Siu-wai took what seemed a blatant dive under a challenge from Forces sweeper Pat Russell and the referee pointed to the spot. Tempest stepped up to make it 2-0. Until that penalty, Eastern looked happy with a 1-0 lead. But the second goal gave them a second wind and Nixon thrashed in a right-foot drive from 35 yards, Greer soared above everyone at the back post to head in Lo Kai-wah's free-kick and Nixon rounded things off with a left-foot drive from the edge of the area. Forces coach Peter Smurthwaite, whose side had lost 6-0 to Eastern in the league, could not hide his feelings after the game. ''All we ask for is a fair crack - but you cannot beat the referee,'' he said, referring to the penalty award. ''I'm not saying we would have won the game at 1-0 down but the penalty award changed the whole match.'' Eastern's only goal in the first half came in the 35th minute when Tempest got away from marker Jack Russell and crossed from the right for Nixon to head in at the far post. South China, meanwhile, hope to clinch the signing of much-travelled centre forward Billy Whitehurst today. Whitehurst, 33, played for Irish champions Glentoran on Saturday and the Irish club's board of directors will tonight discuss his request to leave. ''It's 99 per cent sure they'll agree to it and I can't see any problems,'' said Whitehurst, whose English clubs have included Newcastle, Sunderland and Sheffield United. ''I hope to be on the plane on Tuesday.'' Happy Valley's shortlist of four targets includes Wimbledon's former Tottenham, Manchester United and Coventry City striker Terry Gibson and his Dons' colleague, Leighton Allen, a young centre forward.