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28th August 2017, West Didsbury & Chorlton v Runcorn Linnets FC : 4-0

A beautiful Bank Holiday Monday afternoon could not have been any more miserable for everyone associated with Runcorn Linnets as they slumped to a feeble 4-0 defeat at West Didsbury & Chorlton.

The defensive unit that was so strong last season found itself conceding four goals within an hour for the second time this month, leaving the Linnets faithful dumbfounded and Michael Ellison with much to ponder.

The starting eleven changed once again, with Mark Houghton leading the attack in place of Mitch Bryant and Antony Hickey reclaiming his starting spot, as Ellison opted for a 433 formation.

It was actually the visiting Linnets who started the brighter and it was completely against the run of play when a mix-up in Linnets midfield led to surrendered possession. A chipped ball over the top sent Saul Henderson on his way to beat an ill-timed offside trap and dink a lovely finish over Terry Smith.

Had Hickey been able to convert Mike Simpson's pinpoint cross from only a few yards out the outcome of this game could have been completely different. But with his effort going over the bar, the hosts doubled their lead a minute later. A poor pass out from the back went straight to Matty Kay whose low, 25-yard shot was spilled by Smith with Henderson reacting quickest to tap the loose ball into the net.

The nature of the two goals conceded visibly shook the Linnets and in truth, they looked a beaten side. So it was no surprise that WD&C went on to have a really good spell that drew some excellent saves from Smith.

One of these was tipped behind for a corner and with the Linnets unable to clear the delivery, Nic Evangelinos turned it in to put the hosts into a commanding 3-0 lead.

There was still time for the Linnets to be reduced to 10 men before half-time, Tom Hardwick being shown a straight red with no complaints from his teammates for use of an elbow in retaliation to an off-the-ball incident.

As with the first half the Linnets did begin the second in the ascendancy, the always gut-busting Paul Shanley showing huge determination to make something happen. He was almost rewarded when his effort beat the goalkeeper but also the crossbar by a mere fraction.

WD&C got their fourth goal when Henderson outmuscled Aaron Morris to win a long punt upfield, but it still took an excellent first-time finish across Smith to bag Henderson his hat-trick.

This ended the game as a contest and it was over to Smith in the Linnets goal to put in an eye catching second-half performance to keep the score line down to just the four, when in reality it could have been much worse than that were it not for a string of excellent saves from the Linnets stopper.

This defeat camme in a much worse manner than the defeat at Ashton Athletic earlier in the month. Although we defended poorly in both games, Ashton still had to work for their goals and create them, where as WD&C were given their goals gift wrapped.

That will be immensely disappointing to Michael Ellison and all of his players who pride clean sheets so dearly. Also against Ashton, you always felt that the comeback was on, whereas it never got off the ground on Monday.

We now move back to the traditional Saturday 3pm kick off at the MLS against a Padiham side fresh on the back of their first win of the season and sporting a new management duo appointed in the week.

Runcorn Linnets: Terry Smith, Danny McKenna, Tom Hardwick, Aaron Morris, Michael Simpson, Kieran Nolan, Callum Lucy, Kyle Hamid, Mark Houghton, Paul Shanley, Antony Hickey. Subs: Stuart Wellstead, Mitch Bryant, Chris Lawton. Not used: Danny O'Brien, Zac Aley.

Attendance: 484.

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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