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15th December 2018, Chasetown FC v Runcorn Linnets FC : 1-2

by Dave Bettley

Runcorn Linnets clocked up another three points as well as the miles on their longest journey south of the season.

But there was a down side to Saturday afternoon's success which brought the Linnets' second campaign double - this one against a club they had beaten on home EVO-STIK League West debut in August.

Kurt Sherlock, having scored the goals which would preserve top spot for Michael Ellison's side, was stretchered off near the end.

A cynical challenge on the striker, with Linnets attempting to break away, left Sherlock to undergo lengthy treatnent before being carried to the dressing room.

The challenge reduced the hosts to eight men on account of their third "straight" red card of the contest.

In the Linnets' previous away league match a forntight earlier, hosts Ramsbottom had finished with nine.

It wasn't just the timing of Sherlock's unfortunate exit which was cruelly ironic, coming as it did in "injury time".

He had only been recalled to the starting line-up when midfielder Kris Holt pulled up in the pre-match warm-up - forcing a late change to the XI initially named by Ellison in rain-lashed, bitterly cold deepest Staffordshire.

Linnets' were already suffering from the rare absence of Paul Shanley through injury - the key wideman being forced to sit this one out along with fellow casualties, Michael Simpson and Holt.

Zac Aley came into the left midfield with Ryan Gibson earning a starting debut on the opoosite flank.

Gibson's participation was curtailed, however. A nasty gash to the head, sustained late in the first half, contributed to the busiest of inclement afternoons for physio Gemma Mooney. It never rains but it pours.

There was also a place, at right back, for newly-signed Matt Russell (ex Glossop North End) while Josh Dobie got the nod in a holding midfield role.

The additional expense of an each-way charge on the M6 toll road didn't deter Linnets fans from embarking on a first-time visit to the Scholars Ground in carloads as well as by coach.

The weather made for an unpleasant trip but Linnets started positively, dominating the first quarter - moving the ball with alacrity on a pitch, which although playable was not the easiest surface.

After being on ther front foot, however, the Linnets were rocked back on their heels.

Having given another of the title contender sides a good run for their money last time out, when losing 2-1 at Radcliffe, improving Chasetown took a giant stride to what they hoped would be a first home league win by opening the scoring against the general tide.

Managers invariably feel that goals against their teams are avoidable and this one certainly fell into that category.

Possession was needlessly lost by Runcorn in midfield and the ball played in behind their defence on the home side's left - from where Tom Hill's 35th-minute shot found its way in at the near post.

Linnets, however, had a quick and perfect antidote to Chasetown's suddenly increased confidence.

Aley crossed from the left and while Freddie Potter's connection wasn't strong enough to carry the ball over the goal line, Sherlock bundled it home from close range.

Chasetown were left to fight on with 10 from the 58th minute, when Jazz Luckie was sent off.

It was the most contentious of Chasetown's three dismissals - in fact the only one about which they could conceivably complain.

Often such a challenge would have led to a yellow card but the referee may well have felt there had been an element of jumping into the challenge.

There was no doubt as to the severity of the crunching tackle which saw Will Whieldon take an early bath in the 80th minute. Aaron Morris was lucky not to be seriously hurt after being caught on the edge of the Runcorn penalty area.

Initial fears of a broken foot for Kurt Sherlock were thankfully to be dispelled too but Matty Hardiman quite simply had to walk for his desperate lunge.

Once enjoying numerical supremacy, Runcorn had again put Chasetown under the cosh with home 'keeper Curtis Pond denying them.

But, in the 72nd minute, Pond brought down Sherlock and was deceived by the Runcorn player's ultimately matchwinning penalty.

Runcorn Linnets: Dylan Forth, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Matt Russell, Josh Dobie, Kurt Sherlock, Kyle Hamid (capt), Freddie Potter, Ryan Gibson, Zac Aley. Subs: Bobby Evans, Ronnie McCarthy. Not used: Jack Hinnigan, Danny O'Brien, Kris Holt.

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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