15th April 2017, Runcorn Linnets FC v Maine Road : 1-0 Sponsored by JS & JAS Design Ltdby Ste Bignall
An excellent Easter Saturday crowd of 310 welcomed the Linnets back to the MLS after a long run of consecutive away games, and was treated to a moment of match winning skill by young full back Danny McKenna.
Maine Road are always a tricky opponent and this game proved no different.
It was a much changed Linnets side due to a large number of injured and suspended players. Stu Wellstead was asked to lead the attack on his own, Adam Caunce continued in goal, Mike Simpson and Chris Lawton both returned to the back four, and skipper Kyle Hamid made his return to the starting eleven.
It was the visitors who would have felt disappointed to not have been leading at half time. The balance of play was quite even but Road certainly had the more clear-cut chances. A slip in the Linnets' defence allowed them a free run at Caunce early on but the shot was lifted high and wide.
Only a sensational piece of defending by Road prevented the Linnets from taking the lead when Wellstead rounded the 'keeper, held off his marker and fired goalwards only for a covering defender to scissor kick it clear from the goal line and clatter full force into the post in doing so.
Road had another good chance to open the scoring shortly before half-time when a breakaway up the left allowed a shot at goal which rattled the crossbar.
The visitors were made to pay for their sloppiness in front of goal in the fifth minute of first-half stoppage time. A Danny McKenna free kick 25 yards from goal was lifted perfectly over the wall and goalkeeper, dipping just below the crossbar and into the net to add to a growing list of spectacular free kicks from the left back.
Michael Ellison's men came out looking to put the game to bed early in the second half as chances started to flow. However, Ryan Livesey in the Road goal had other ideas. His flying fingertip save from Kyle Hamids strike was the pick of Livesey's saves, his very assured display of handling when under pressure was both frustrating and impressive.
Road applied some late pressure with a series of corners and a wind-assisted header that dropped just the wrong side (for them) of the crossbar, but the Linnets saw the narrow victory out to extend the excellent form that we are currently in.
Easter Monday sees us not make the customary trip across town to play in our neighbours' garden, instead it's a sizeable trip down the M6 for a first ever visit to Hanley Town, the last side to beat Ello's men in a league fixture with a freak 2-5 reversal at the MLS way back at the very beginning of January.
Runcorn Linnets: Adam Caunce, Daniel McKenna, Christopher Lawton, Aaron Morris, Michael Simpson, Kieran Nolan, Kristian Holt, Kyle Hamid, Stuart Wellstead, Zachery Aley, Antony Hickey. Subs: Daniel O'Brien, Mark Houghton. Not used: Adam Wade, Matthew Cross, Michael Ellison.
Maine Road: Ryan Livesey, Joel Senior, Louie Inniss, Jonathan Mason, Louis Edwards, James Ormrod, Jamie Roe, Matthew Morgan, Daniel Burgess, Connor Hughes, Joseph O'Brien. Subs: Martin Owen, Thomas Keyworth, Dominic Chatfield. Not used: Christopher Hirst, Richard Williams.
NB. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Runcorn Linnets FC or its Board.