17th November 2018, Runcorn Linnets FC v Clitheroe : 2-1 Sponsored by Once a Linnet
A terrific crowd of 399 took in the Autumn sunshine at the Millbank Linnets Stadium on Saturday to witness the Linnets secure another three very hard-fought EVO-STIK League Division One West points.
Our guests for the day were Clitheroe, the Lancashire-based outfit making their first ever visit.
A notable change to the Linnets starting eleven was Matt Holmes replacing Dylan Forth between the sticks.
Ronnie McCarthy also returned after a lengthy injury lay-off. With Freddie Potter serving his final game of a three-match suspension, Kurt Sherlock and Connor McCarthy led the line once again.
Paul Shanley was influential right from the off, getting the ball down and running directly at Clitheroe. One such move brought about a very early booking for our visitors, when Shanley was brought down via a very heavy tackle on the left wing.
With 18 minutes played, the Linnets almost gifted Clitheroe the opening goal.
Firstly, we were almost caught short when trying to play out from the back but managed to force the ball back to Matty Holmes, whose attempted clearance went straight to a Clitheroe player 10 yards from goal.
However, Louis Corrigan had foreseen the danger and came across to block the effort on goal.
On 22 minutes, Runcorn took the lead with a goal out of nowhere! Things seemed relatively harmless when Mike Simpson had the ball on the right wing with defenders all around him.
Simmo dug out a cross that seemed to bamboozle the Clitheroe players inside the penalty box; they allowed the ball to bounce and find its way to Paul Shanley, who headed the ball sublimely over the outstretched arm of the goalkeeper and in to the top corner. A great headed goal by Shanners!
Not long after taking the lead, Kris Holt had a good chance to double it after being set up well by Shanley. But Holty dragged his shot wide from the edge of the 18-yard box.
Michael Ellison's players were pushing hard for another goal and came agonisingly close on 39 minutes. Defender Peter Wylie, still looking for his first goal in Runcorn colours, lost his marker in the penalty area and got a solid head to Corrigan's in-swinging corner - only to see it slam off the post before being scrambled clear by a Clitheroe player on the goal line.
But on the stroke of half time, the Linnets did score the second goal that their first-half display deserved. Kyle Hamid sent Connor McCarthy chasing a ball into the penalty area and with the goalkeeper committing himself to make a challenge, Connor took the ball past the 'keeper and was brought down.
There was no debating that this was indeed a clear foul, but there was plenty of debating about where the foul had taken place as it was right on the side edge of the penalty area.
It was a decision that probably could have gone either way, and, on the day, it went in our favour.
It possibly wasn't the worst thing for Clitheroe as if it was adjudged to have been outside the area, it was likely that the goalkeeper would have received a straight red card.
Kurt Sherlock stepped forward and tucked the penalty low into the bottom right corner.
Runcorn had played well in the first half and aside from a defensive lapse early on had not looked threatened.
But just a single minute into the second half, Clitheroe pulled themselves right back into the game with a superb solo goal.
Picking up the ball in midfield, substitute Harry Cannon-Noren ran straight at the heart of the Linnets defence, beating several players on his way into the penalty area before firing low past Matty Holmes to reduce the deficit to 2-1.
Kurt Sherlock had been replaced at half-time by Zac Aley, and on 56 minutes Ello was forced to make another substitution.
Kris Holt had to leave the pitch after succumbing to a series of heavy challenges, newly-signed Liam Morris coming on for his Linnets debut.
Clitheroe would have the better of the second half, moving the ball around with more purpose but not really creating much of a goal threat.
The Linnets looked most vulnerable to their own mistakes, making too many unnecessary errors at the back and almost putting themselves in big trouble with a misplaced pass on several occasions.
With seven minutes remaining, Connor McCarthy had the chance to secure the points for the Linnets.
Latching on to a clearance upfield, McCarthy found himself through on goal with just the 'keeper to beat, but his opponent stood firm and threw out a trailing leg to flick Connor's effort around the far post from close range.
It's easy to say Connor should have scored, but it was a very good piece of goalkeeping that denied him.
Clitheroe started to get frustrated as the Linnets wore the clock down with the ball near the corner flags and with four additional minutes to navigate, it was all hands on deck to try to see another victory through - a feat that was achieved with minimal fuss in the end.
This was yet another very tight league fixture that really could have gone either way. Luckily, the Linnets took enough of their chances when they came and managed to prevent Clitheroe from creating many of their own.
Over the 90 minutes, there was little else to separate the two sides.
Victories just don't come easily at this level; you have to work to the bone for every single point and our lads are doing the business for us in that sense. They aren't afraid of hard work!
We have a couple of games to look forward to this week - firstly, an away visit to Leek Town on Tuesday night in the Integro League Cup second round, followed by another welcome home fixture on Saturday against one of our old NWCL counterparts, Newcastle Town (ko 3pm).
Runcorn Linnets: Matt Holmes, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Michael Simpson, Ronnie McCarthy, Kristian Holt, Kyle Hamid (c), Connor McCarthy, Paul Shanley, Kurt Sherlock. Subs: Zac Aley, Liam Morris. Not used: Danny O'Brien, Niall Watson, Jack Hinnigan.
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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