29th September 2018, Atherton Collieries v Runcorn Linnets FC : 4-2
Runcorn Linnets' maiden voyage in the Buildbase FA Trophy ended without ever really getting started at Atherton Collieries on Saturday.
Our wretched form in cup competitions over the last four years shows no signs of letting up.
A much-changed Linnets side were dealt a blow from which it proved too difficult to recover - Paul Shanley being sent off with barely half an hour played.
The referee showed Shanners a second yellow card for what he adjudged to have been a dive, after an earlier caution for a foul.
Missing personnel prompted Ello to change his usual shape with Josh Dobie, Bobby Evans and Adam Gilchrist all brought into the starting eleven.
Freddie Potter, Ronnie McCarthy, Kyle Hamid and Kurt Sherlock missed out completely while Danny O'Brien and Mike Simpson started on the subs bench.
The opening exchanges were very low key, the game being played at a slow and steady pace with Linnets kicking up the significant Skuna Stadium slope.
Colls had a good chance to open the scoring when Jordan Cover found space at the far post but sliced his shot wide.
It would only be a stay of execution for the Linnets though as the hosts did break the deadlock on 25 minutes.
Adam Farrell nicked the ball from the feet of the Linnets' backline and took an early shot from 25 yards to beat Dylan Forth low at his right post.
The next 10 minutes were packed with incident as Colls took control and looked to extend their lead.
Not long after conceding the opener, the Linnets' task was made all the more difficult as Shanley was given his marching orders, dismissed by the referee for simulation with the winger claiming he had been felled in the Colls penalty area.
With the Linnets rattled, Colls had a great chance to double their lead when a ball to the far post found players to spare. But with too much time on their hands, indecisiveness got in the way and the chance was wasted.
On 36 minutes, and totally against the run of play, the Linnets found an equaliser.
Kris Holt, a former long-serving Colls player, won the ball in a challenge 25 yards from goal and, in very similar fashion to Colls' goal, he hit an early strike from well outside the penalty area that found the bottom corner.
Adam Gilchrist was subjected to a ferocious tackle right in front of the dugouts as half-time approached, and with players from both sides surrounding the referee only a yellow card was shown for the tackle. Louis Corrigan was also booked for his protests after the incident.
Colls came out strong in the second half and took control of the cup-tie. Within five minutes, they had retaken the advantage when a cross from the right was headed in from close range by Jordan Cover.
It then took three brilliant quickfire saves by Forth to keep Linnets in the game. He saved twice from close range and then again from a free header off a Colls corner.
In the 69th minute, Colls as good as sealed the deal with the simplest of goals. With time and space on the right of midfield, a ball picked out the run of Cover, who had the freedom of the Linnets penalty area to round Dylan Forth and slide home his side's third goal of the afternoon.
Connor McCarthy, the standout Linnets player on the day, gave his side some hope with 13 minutes remaining with a goal of real quality. Regaining possession from an opposition full back on the corner of the 18-yard box, McCarthy turned to hit a first-time shot that curled beyond the stretch of Colls goalkeeper and into the far bottom corner.
However, unlike in the 3-2 league defeat on the same ground a week earlier, the late Linnets' late charge never came.
Colls, in fact, went one better this time by scoring a fourth. A free kick on the edge of the Linnets' penalty area took a deflection off the defensive wall and spun away into the bottom corner, leaving Dylan Forth with no chance of making a save.
The result was the right one on the day. Runcorn never got going in the game and did very well to be in with a shout until the last five minutes.
Colls face a trip up to the North East to face Marske United in the next round.
Attention for Linnets now turns to a mouth-watering encounter at the Millbank Linnets Stadium this Tuesday night (October 2nd) as first-placed Linnets host third-placed Radcliffe in an EVOSTIK League West fixture.
Radcliffe had been the early pace setters until suffering a couple of defeats in the last week. Kick off on Tuesday is 7.45pm
Runcorn Linnets: Dylan Forth, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Josh Dobie, Peter Wylie, Kieran Nolan, Bobby Evans, Kristian Holt, Connor McCarthy, Paul Shanley (c), Adam GIlchrist. Subs: Michael Simpson, Niall Watson, Danny O'Brien. Not used: Liam Collings, Kyle Hamid.
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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