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8th April 2017, AFC Darwen v Runcorn Linnets FC : 0-3

Patience was the order of the day on a glorious Saturday afternoon in Darwen, where despite dominating proceedings from the off, Runcorn Linnets had to wait until the final quarter of the match before opening the scoring.

It came on the back of a triple attacking substitution from Michael Ellison, which once again proved a master stroke.

Matthew Holmes was at Darwen but hobbling around on crutches after injuring a foot at work so Adam Caunce returned between the posts for the Linnets.

And with Paul Shanley beginning a suspension, Anthony Hickey started out wide in his place.

The early exchanges were subdued, both sides acclimatising to the heat, but when Mark Houghon got round the 'keeper but volleyed wide, Linnets went on to take complete control without being able to make the net ripple.

Houghto got in on the 'keeper three times in the first half but was unable to convert, and both Freddie Potter and Anthony Hickey put headers wide from deadly Danny McKenna crosses when well placed.

It took a last-ditch sliding block to prevent Aaron Morris from opening the scoring for the visitors before a flicked header by a Darwen defender in his own penalty area had his 'keeper beaten but dropped inches wide of the post.

The Linnets left the pitch at half time feeling frustrated that their dominance had shown no rewards, but it was crucial to remain composed and patient and that was the message continually from the Linnets bench.

With half an hour remaining, Ello made his triple substitution, introducing Kyle Hamid, Mike Simpson and Stu Wellstead to the fray and giving them ample time to affect the outcome of the game.

The effect was immediate as the injection of pace and energy on a sapping afternoon rejuvenated the visitors, who set about winning the game.

The breakthrough finally came in the 68th minute. Danny McKenna had the ball on the left and drilled in a dart-like cross to the far post where Wellstead had sneaked in under the radar to plant a firm header across the 'keeper and remove any worries that all the pressure would come to nothing.

Within eight minutes, the score was 0-3 and the victory secured. Freddie Potter could have got the goal that his play deserved when he was one on one with the 'keeper but as Potter was upended, the ball fell to his team mate Zac Aley.

The third goal was the pick of the bunch as a lobbed through ball from skipper Hamid caught the Darwen defence flat footed and Wellstead lifted the ball over the advancing 'keeper to add some gloss to the score line.

Ultimately, the Linnets' never-give-up attitude showed its 'ugly' side late on as Freddie Potter gave his all to keep in play a loose ball, but he overstretched and went down immediately clutching a hamstring.

It was such a shame to see 'The Wizard' limping towards the changing rooms in real discomfort, given the impact he has had since his return to the club.

The win keeps up the pressure on this around us and although games are starting to run out for the Linnets, Ello and Co will be working hard to try to achieve the 12 points still available and see where it gets us.

Runcorn Linnets: Adam Caunce, Danny McKenna, Tom Hardwick, Aaron Morris, Danny O'Brien, Kieran Nolan, Kris Holt, Zac Aley, Antony Hickey, Freddie Potter, Mark Houghton. Subs: Stuart Wellstead, Kyle Hamid, Michael Simpson. Not used: Christopher Lawton, Adam Wade.

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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