25th August 2018, Runcorn Linnets FC v Maltby Main FC : 1-2 Sponsored by The Fore Golfers
Maltby Main added their name to an ever- growing list of Emirates FA Cup frustrations for Runcorn Linnets, as the Step 5 outfit from Yorkshire came to the MLS on Saturday and left with a place in the next round and a handsome prize money cheque.
It's been quite rare for teams to leave the MLS with a win, and even rarer that a team turns in a performance as impressive as Maltby did.
However, despite the fact that Main thoroughly deserved their win, it was very much an afternoon where if key moments had gone slightly differently, the result probably would have been different as well.
Ello was forced into one key change from the side that had ground out our first EVO- STIK West victory against Chasetown on Tuesday night. With Freddie Potter unavailable, Adam Gilchrist was given a chance at the spearheaded of the attack.
The early stages were dominated by Runcorn as they took the game to Maltby, the visitors unable to contain the pace of Kurt Sherlock and Paul Shanley or the movement of Kris Holt.
The Linnets took a deserved lead on 15 minutes with a well-worked goal. Aaron Morris played a ball into the feet of Gilchrist, who held the play up well and made a lay off to Shanley. The winger advanced with the ball, beating two men as he cut in from the left wing, and curled a cracking finish from 18 yards into the bottom corner beyond the reach of the goalkeeper.
With an early lead at home against a side from a league below the script from this point is often a case of a straightforward victory but Maltby hadn't read the script in full. Falling behind seemed to unshackle our guests, who started to create a glut of clear goalscoring opportunities.
Having already shot wide from six yards out at the far post and spurned a glorious chance when clean through on Dylan Forths goal, drawing a superb save from the Linnets stopper, the visitors saw a strike from outside the penalty area headed off the goal line by Louis Corrigan.
With the very last kick of the first half, Maltby got the equaliser and it was another frustratingly simple goal to concede. A long ball was flicked on from midfield into the path of the imposing centre forward Ross Duggan, who bludgeoned his way past a Linnets defender to fire across Forth and into the bottom corner.
This was the first of the key moments in the game that could have changed the outcome. Had the whistle blown five seconds earlier, the Linnets would have led at half time with both team talks being completely different.
The vast majority of the second half was a real struggle for the Linnets due to Maltby's physical threat from set pieces.
From a long throw, a free header was scrambled off the Linnets goal line and cleared away from danger and this was soon followed by a free kick on the right flank finding a free man at the far post to somehow head wide with the goal gaping.
Having spurned a number of gilt-edged chances to take the lead, Maltby should have been punished as Linnets created a glorious chance to retake the lead.
Aaron Morris returned a loose ball into the six-yard box, giving Gilchrist a free header and open goal from almost under the crossbar.
But Gilchrist appeared to be deceived by the flight of the ball, mistiming his run and making no connection with the ball.
That was critical moment number two.
With 20 minutes remaining, Maltby took the lead, but frustratingly from a wasted Linnets free kick.
We had already tried to play a short pass with a free kick which went nowhere, but the referee gave us a second bite of the cherry as he pulled it back for a moving ball.
Instead of loading the Maltby penalty box and swinging a cross in, we played another rushed short pass into the feet of Kurt Sherlock.
Sherlock was muscled off the ball and with Linnets caught out of position, play broke down the left wing with a cross finding Danny Frost on the far side of the Linnets box.
Frost still had plenty to do but pulled off a terrific half volley that flew into the top corner via the crossbar, giving Dylan Forth no chance.
Having taken the lead, Maltby's tactics changed to protect what they had.
Linnets struggled to create an opening as the Yorkshire outfit shut up shop.
Ello's team never throw in the towel and a very late rally almost salvaged a replay for the Linnets.
In injury time, a Kyle Hamid shot from outside the box drew a flying save from the goalkeeper, and from the resulting corner a huge scramble ensued with the penalty area flooded with bodies.
The ball fell perfectly for Linnets but the ensuing goal attempt wasn't caught on the full and Maltby's man on the goal line was able to force the ball clear to end Runcorn's interest in the FA Cup for another season.
There's no getting away from it. This was an extremely frustrating defeat.
On paper, the draw had been favourable, and having lead early against a side a league below ourselves, you feel this was a game that we should have been winning.
The FA Cup carries prestige, the opportunity for some media attention and most importantly the chance to earn significant funds for the club.
One positive is that the Linnets have only 48 hours to dwell on this result. Bank Holiday Monday brings another EVO-STIK West fixture, when we travel to Prescot Cables to take on their groundshare tenants Skelmersdale United.
Kick off at Volair Park is at 3pm.
Runcorn Linnets: Dylan Forth, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Michael Simpson, Ronnie McCarthy, Kristian Holt, Kyle Hamid, Adam Gilchrist, Paul Shanley, Kurt Sherlock. Subs: Kieran Nolan, Declan Gallagher. Not used: Robert Evans, Danny O'Brien.
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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