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7th May 2018, Runcorn Linnets FC v Runcorn Town : 0-1 Sponsored by Webbs of Runcorn

By Dave Bettley

Championship-winning Runcorn Linnets' celebration carnival got into full swing on Bank Holiday Monday - and after briefly being stopped in its tracks by a decisive Runcorn Town goal in added time, festivities promptly resumed with Yellow and Green aplenty.

It is no doubt still going on now, at least in supporters' heads which are slowly beginning to clear after the kind of season which many could have only imagined in their wildest dreams 12 years ago, when Runcorn AFC played its final match at Ashton United.

Had the old club survived, it would have dropped into the Northern Premier League Division One and that is where the reborn Linnets are now heading for the 2018-19 season.

The culmination of a season's work - or more like two seasons, considering this title-winning squad was built virtually from scratch in the summer of 2016, under a new management team - saw Linnets finally crowned champions of The Hallmark Security League Premier Division.

After top-six finishes in each of the last half dozen years (including an against-the-odds fourth place last season following the break-up of the squad which had gained three successive runners-up spots between 2014 and 2016), even their fiercest rivals would not begrudge this success.

The Linnets' main adversaries in terms of location succeeded in their bid to gatecrash if not spoil the promotion party and went home to the other side of town with a victory, which must have tasted bitter-sweet - Town's quest to join their neighbours in Step 4 of the National Leagues System from August ending in disappointment.

With Linnets having secured the title on Thursday, two matches in advance of the final day, Town's hopes of also making the EVO-STIK League's new Division One West had all but evaporated on Saturday.

Victories for both second place hopefuls, Runcorn Town and Widnes meant that even if the latter were beaten in their last match, the former would have needed to beat Linnets by an all but an impossible margin to take runners-up spot.

As it transpired, Widnes won by the only goal at Ashton Athletic to give ex-Linnet Kevin Towey a second successive promotion - last season as a player and this time as co player-manager.

Although only two of The Hallmark League's Halton representatives will be climbing the ladder this season, all three should be justifiably proud of their ultimate domination of the title race.

By far Linnets biggest attendance of this season - indeed their largest of any campaign - made it to the Millbank Linnets Stadium to witness the last action of the campaign but more significantly, the lifting of the league trophy.

Only twice has the 890 crowd - a ground record for a league game - been surpassed in the eight year since the MLS was built.

For the official opening, a pre-season encounter with Witton Albion in 2010, 1,037 had come through the turnstile while last season's NWCL Division One Cup final, City of Liverpool versus Sandbach, attracted a gate of 1,263.

The silver pot raised proudly aloft by Kyle Hamid after the end-of-match presentation by league chairman Paul Lawler was a historic trophy for a landmark occasion.

Made in 1911 by the renowned Yorksire silversmiths Fattorini & Sons of Bradford, it was first contested in 1912-13 as The Lancashire Football Combination Challenge Cup and won by Eccles Borough.

In 1982, The Lancashire Combination merged with the Cheshire County League to form the North West Counties League.

In the same year, Runcorn AFC won the Alliance Premier League (now National League) and this us the first title success for Linnets fans since then.

The 'May Day' game was the end of a busy closing week for both Runcorn clubs and after an energy-sapping season, temperatures soaring into the mid-20sC was the last thing either team would really have wanted.

The game had very much an end-of-season feel, lacking the intensity normally expected of such a partisan contest. Chances at either end were few, although Town had the better of the play.

When Liam Turner forced home the decisive goal with 90 minutes already up, Linnets had no time to recover and the group of visiting fans behind the same goal had the consolation and satisfaction of seeing their team register a maiden league win at The Millbank Linnets Stadium.

But if ever the result of the so-called El Classicorn was incidental, this was surely it. The late clincher by the visitors made absolutely no difference to the host club's celebrations.

These were sparked by the handover of the impressive championship prize complete, at last, with yellow and green ribbons - league chairman Lawler, having presented the trophy to Linnets skipper Hamid and equally ecstatic team-mates, scooting out of the way just in time to escape the time-honoured spraying of champagne.

Runcorn Linnets will hope that claiming their maiden title, on the back of their first winners' trophy in the 2013 League Challenge Cup, is another stepping stone to further success.

Meanwhile Runcorn Town can take inspiration from their rivals' triumph - just as the Linnets had done on the final day of the 2015-16 season, when Glossop North End paraded the same trophy at the MLS as champions.

Runcorn Linnets: Dylan Forth, Louis Corrigan, Matt Atherton, Jimmy Moore, Danny O'Brien, Michael Simpson, Kieran Nolan, Kyle Hamid, Freddie Potter, Paul Shanley, Antony Hickey. Subs: Stuart Wellstead, Aaron Morris, Kris Holt. Not used: Mitch Bryant, Adam Jones.

Attendance: 890.

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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