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27th August 2016, Runcorn Linnets FC v Irlam : 4-1

by Ste Bignall

MICHAEL Ellison finally got the first managerial win his own endeavours - and the efforts of his new-look side - had deserved on Saturday while also bringing to an end a very impressive run of 22 games unbeaten for one of the Hallmark Security League Premier Division's new sides, Irlam.

And it was a win that carried much style and flair!

Just before kick off, the heavens opened up to unleash a torrential downpour on the Millbank Linnets Stadium that didn't let up for most of the first half.

Yet again, 'Ello' was unable to name the same back four for two consecutive games, which means that in six competitive matches so far this season, the back four has not been the same twice!

There were home debuts for Danny O'Brien and Anthony "Kaka" Donaldson, who had both impressed in midfield against Cammell Laird 1907 earlier in the week.

As with the game at Lairds, the Linnets dominated from the very start. Mark Houghton led the attacking line and almost opened the scoring with a sublime chip from 18 yards but the 'keeper did well to save.

Soon after, the home side looked set to take the lead when Paul Shanley was brought down in the box for what I thought was a bit of a 'soft' penalty.

Up stepped skipper Kyle Hamid, but his penalty was saved by the 'keeper low to his right; our second missed penalty in two matches.

Houghton went close again when he was sent clean through by a ball from Donaldson but despite having time to set himself, his shot allowed Irlam's 'keeper to save with his legs.

There was an air of inevitability after 25 minutes, when Irlam took the lead completely against the run of play, -a theme that keeps rearing its ugly head at the minute. A quick and sharp passing move left the Linnets back four chasing shadows, the ball working its way to Christian Lawlor who finished well past Tom Hunt from eight yards out.

It looked like being another one of those days when Paul Shanley went tearing up the left wing, cut inside and curled a shot past the 'keeper only for it to cannon off the far post and out to safety.

The task could have been made much more difficult for Runcorn, when Irlam crashed a dipping long-range effort off the bar with Hunt beaten, but the luck that had been missing finally came just before half-time.

Shanley curled an in swinging corner right into the heart of the penalty box and, with Irlam struggling to clear, vice-skipper Houghton pounced to force a volley into the roof of the net - the perfect time to score and lift the atmosphere going into the second half.

Ellison's men came out in the second half in much the same vein as the first, looking to dominate proceedings and take the game to Irlam. The Linnets deservedly took the lead on 57 minutes with a fine passing move that included O'Brien, Hamid and Donaldson - the latter sliding a pinpoint ball through to pick up a run into the box by Shanley, who found a sublime first-time finish across the 'keeper and into the bottom corner.

Again akin to the game at Lairds, nerves began to play a part once Linnets had taken the lead; a few panicked passes and lunging tackles were thrown in by a side desperate to get their first win of the season.

However, the pressure valve was blown out of the MLS on 68 minutes when the ever-industrious Mark Houghton, who hadn't given the Irlam back four a minute's peace all day, chased down a sloppy back pass to just beat the 'keeper to it, knock it past him and finish from a tight angle to give the home side some breathing space at 3-1.

Latest signing Ronnie Mcarthy was introduced for his Linnets debut and Steve Foster was given a home debut from the bench. It was 'Fozzie', who gave the scoreline a coat of gloss with 10 minutes to go.

The very impressive Jay Roberts glided past three Irlam players on a charging run down the right wing before sending a magnificent cross over the stranded 'keeper and right on to Foster's head.

The experienced striker had only to make contact from three yards out to seal the game at 4-1 to the men in yellow and green.

There was a sour end with Roberts going down injured, and ultimately being carried off on a stretcher.

We have seen enough in his three games so far to know that Jay is going to be an influential member of Ello's team, so hopefully his injury doesn't turn out to be as bad as it looked.

It has to be said though that this injury was not the result of a poor or badly-timed tackle by Irlam, our visitors for the day played the game in tremendous spirit and sportsmanship and left the MLS having made a number of new friends.

The last action of the game was Linnets' new stopper, Hunt making a great save, getting right across his goal at full stretch to tip a long-range effort around a post.

Full-time was met with a huge sense of satisfaction that this new look team had finally got the win it has merited. The defending was much better and that was the foundation for the performance. The whole side turned in a strong display, but in particular Paul Shanley, Tony Donaldson, Chris Lawton and Mark Houghton really took the game by the scruff of the neck.

'Houghto' looked fully at home in his central attacking berth, his natural position before being moved out wide by Joey Dunn.

'Shanners' is starting to have a telling impact on matches, something that he has done time and time again for our neighbours, Runcorn Town.

Runcorn Linnets: Tom Hunt, Danny McKenna, Chris Lawton, Aaron Morris, Jay Roberts. Danny O'Brien, Tony Donaldson, Kyle Hamid (capt), Mark Houghton, Paul Shanley, Bevan Burey. Subs: Steve Foster, Ronnie McCarthy, Sean Carlson. (not used): Adam Wade, Allan Collins.

Attendance: 267.

NB. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Runcorn Linnets FC or its Board.

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