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10th November 2018, Market Drayton Town v Runcorn Linnets FC : 3-2

By Ste Bignall

Runcorn Linnets made our first ever visit to Market Drayton Town on Saturday but left empty handed after conceding a late goal in a substandard overall performance.

Market Drayton's Greenfields ground was certainly one of the more charismatic venues that we have visited so far this season. Buried in the middle of a meandering traditional sports complex, the football ground is landlocked by a rugby club, tennis courts, cricket pitch, social club buildings and other community facilities. The' old school' floodlight towers carry much charm, judging by the conversations among the visiting Linnets fans, and you can see clearly where the ground has developed over the years to keep up with the club's rise through the leagues.

There is a wonderful little second seated stand positioned curiously behind one of the corner flags - perhaps required at some point for additional seating to meet a ground grading requirement?

The start couldn't have been any better for Michael Ellison's side. Putting Market Drayton under pressure with a series of early set pieces, we broke early home resolve after only seven minutes. Louis Corrigan's corner kick travelled to the far side of the 18-yard box, where Kris Holt took the ball under control and curled a sublime effort over all of the bodies between himself and the goal to find the top corner.

Market Drayton had pace going forward and were always looking at opportunities to counter attack. One such counter attack yielded their first equaliser of the day, albeit through a couple of errors.

The first mistake was a poor decision by the referee to award a free kick on the edge of the Linnets' box, despite an impeccably executed challenge by Aaron Morris. The reaction of both sets of players to the decision told the story.

Daniel Beddows opted for a daisy-cutting free kick that squirmed through the legs and desperate grasp of Dylan Forth to sneak over the goal line, confirmed by the waving flag of a linesman.

The goal rocked the Linnets, who had been comfortably in control up to that point - the fluidity and calmness in play disappearing for a five-minute spell.

However, on 27 minutes the Linnets' lead was restored. Played through on goal, Kurt Sherlock tried to round the goalkeeper but was brought down for a penalty kick. Kurt dusted himself down to covert the penalty, sending the 'keeper the wrong way.

The pattern of play was maintained with Linnets trying to work an opening and Market Drayton causing headaches with their counter-attacking style.

Just like in the last away game, the defeat at Prescot Cables, the Linnets would concede a 43rd-minute equaliser to change the half-time team talks of both managers.

Ello will be frustrated at the ease with which this goal was scored - a cross from the right enabling a free header in the six-yard box that Dylan Forth did well to block. However, the ball fell to the unmarked William Wells to turn in the rebound from close range under no pressure from an absent Linnets defence.

There was still time for both sides to go close to taking the lead before half-time. Firstly, Market Drayton wasted a great chance when firing wide at the far post from another lighting counter attack. Then, on the stroke of half-time, Drayton's Paul McMullen almost headed into his own net when diverting a cross away from danger.

The second half would be a much tighter affair, largely dominated by the Linnets, without every creating the killer opportunity. Market Drayton identified the threats posed by the likes of Connor McCarthy, Paul Shanley and Sherlock and doubled their marking efforts to frustrate the Linnets' attack.

It would be Sherlock, who would twice come closest to putting Runcorn back in the lead. On 65 minutes, he slid across the penalty area in a desperate attempt to turn in Louis Corrigan's low cross-cum-shot at the far post, missing out by a millisecond.

And just a minute later, Sherlock's shot from outside the penalty area looked to be heading for the far corner of the net but flashed agonisingly wide of the post with the 'keeper beaten.

On 81 minutes, Market Drayton scored what would prove to be the winning goal. With the Linnets piling forward themselves in trying to grab a winner, the ball was lost near the Drayton penalty area.

A trademark counter attack had the Linnets outnumbered and back pedalling. However, Aaron Morris did well to track his man all the way to the byline and make a tackle to concede a corner when Drayton players had been on hand to turn a loose ball in.

Unfortunately, though it would be only the briefest stay of execution as the in-swinging corner was glanced goalwards by the head of Andrew Hartlebry. It was cleared away from danger by Pete Wylie without ever touching the ground - only for the linesman to follow in his colleague's footsteps and wave his flag to confirm the ball had indeed crossed the goal line.

The lack of appeal from the Linnets' players supported the linesman's decision.

The final 13 minutes, including stoppage time, would not bring the expected onslaught from the Linnets. The effort was there but the quality didn't match; key passes going astray and promising set pieces being rushed or over hit.

Despite a general consensus that the team hadn't played close to as well as we can, it was still a bitter pill to swallow that Linnets had taken nothing from the game.

Having led twice and been in command of the second half, it was hard to fathom how we would be going home without at least a point to show for our efforts.

Runcorn return to the Millbank Linnets Stadium for an EVO-STIK Division One West fixture against Clitheroe this coming Saturday afternoon, kick off at 3pm.

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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