3rd May 2018, Runcorn Linnets FC v Squires Gate : 5-0 Sponsored by In Memory of Harry Thompson
Runcorn Linnets finally put the Hallmark Security League Premier Division title hoodoo behind them on Thursday night.
A glorious 5-0 victory against Squires Gate at the Millbank Linnets Stadium etched the Linnets' name upon the trophy as champions - and it all ended in truly magical fashion!
The Linnets have been knocking on the door for so long now, having not finished outside of the top 6 since 2012. In that time, we have finished 6th, 5th, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd & 4th, before finally ramming the door clean off its hinges in 20017-18!
After the uncharacteristic blip on Monday night against Northwich Vics, it was great to have a chance to win the title on home soil, and despite plucky opposition in outstanding form, nothing was going to stop Ello's men this time.
Aaron Morris made his return to the defence alongside Matty Atherton, the unlucky Jimmy Moore missing out completely after being caught out by the late rescheduling of this fixture.
Kyle Hamid was back to lead the team from midfield, alongside Holt and Simpson, with Anthony Hickey returning to the attack following a suspension.
The intent was there from the off, Linnets throwing everything they had at Gate.
With 15 minutes gone, Freddie Potter was sent bearing down on goal but succumbed to a smart save. However, it was the briefest of setbacks as, from the resulting corner, Danny O'Brien found a perfect delivery that was glanced home by the head of Linnets stalwart Matty Atherton.
Linnets continued to search for goals but had to be wary of Gate's counter attacks with Aaron Morris doing particularly well to come across to cover a dangerous through ball.
Eight minutes before half time, there was a strange incident where Kyle Hamid was fouled off the ball and needed treatment. The referee saw enough to blow his whistle but only gave a booking to the offending Gate player – and then awarded the visitors a free kick?
The outcome of this bizarre passage of play could not have been any better. Gate tried to be too clever with the free kick and lost possession to Kris Holt deep inside the Linnets half.
Holt went on a charging run through the heart of the Gate defence, played a pass to Adam Jones, who in turn found Freddie Potter on the edge of the penalty box - the Wizard picking his spot and firing one of those agonising, slow motion dribblers into the far bottom corner!
So, 2-0 to the Linnets at half time. You could feel the anticipation growing among the 458 strong crowd, but it was Squires Gate, who started the second half the better.
The Linnets were starting to look slightly fatigued, understandably so after a long and draining season. But just when it was looking as though Gate might get themselves back into the game, a magnificent cross from the left wing by Louis Corrigan found the head of Potter, who attacked the ball like a battering ram. His second goal and the Linnets' third of the night moved his side into a title-winning position with 25 minutes left.
Ello made the most of his substitutes' bench, bringing on Mitch Bryant, Kieran Nolan and Chris Lawton for the last 20 minutes.
Anthony Hickey had been on top form all night, and caused delirium around the MLS with a superb solo goal with only seven minutes remaining to start the title celebrations early!
Cutting in from the right, he tricked his marker with a turn and curled a left-footed effort around the goalkeeper and into the net at the clubhouse end. The pandemonium in the covered terrace behind the goal, home to the Left Side Ultras, was a joy to witness!
As supporters of Linnets old or new – be it for 3, 5, 10, 25, 40, 50 or some cases even 60+ years – we all know that we never, ever do anything in a boring or straightforward fashion!!
There was no way that the game was going to just peter out; we were always going to do something "Runcorn style"!
Cue the magical moment that will go down in the club's history!
Chris Lawton first came to the Linnets under Paul McNally's management way back in 2010, at the time one of the most sought- after centre halves in local non-league circles.
His Linnets highlights to date had both come against Runcorn Town - scoring the winning goal in the first Runcorn derby held at the MLS, along with an outstanding and memorable performance as a makeshift goalkeeper on Boxing Day 2016, where it took a 90th-minute deflection for our neighbours, top of the league at the time, to equalise.
He had in between left the club, during the early Joey Dunn days - harshly treated in the view of many - but always remained a favourite among the Linnets faithful.
In the bleak days of Ello's early tenure (Maghull anyone??), when most felt the grass was greener away from the Linnets, Lawty offered his services to the manager in whatever capacity was required. He's been around the club ever since, although his playing time has been limited this year.
You know where this is heading don't you?!
As the last seconds of injury time ticked away, a deep Linnets corner found its way right across goal to Hickey, who composed himself to pick out a pass across the penalty area for Lawty to sweep the ball home with his right foot!
The referee blew the full time whistle almost as soon as the ball nestled into the net, and the dream was finally realised in the most wonderful way.
People poured on to the MLS pitch from every angle. Players, coaching staff, supporters old and new. A mass huddle was created in the middle of the pitch as years of built-up emotion came pouring out from all around.
Supporters made a large guard of honour for their heroes as they eventually left the pitch, and carried high at the end of the line was the club captain Kyle Hamid, one of the handful of players who had stood by the club in the summer of 2016 when others left it to crash and burn.
Mucker stood tall, helped to pick up the pieces, took on the club captaincy and dragged us from the depths to the title.
He left the pitch on the shoulders of adoring supporters, to the tune of "We are the Champions". Few people deserve it more.
It's official - Runcorn Linnets are Hallmark Security League Premier Division Champions for 2017-18.
Runcorn Linnets: Dylan Forth, Louis Corrigan, Matt Atherton, Aaron Morris, Danny O'Brien, Michael Simpson, Kristian Holt, Kyle Hamid, Freddie Potter, Antony Hickey, Adam Jones. Subs: Mitch Bryant, Kieran Nolan, Chris Lawton. Not used Stuart Wellstead, Paul Shanley.
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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