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5th February 2019, Runcorn Linnets FC v Trafford : 1-3

by Ste Bignall

Runcorn Linnets' assault on the Integro League Cup ended at the quarter-final stage on Tuesday night, despite a largely decent performance from an injury-ravaged side against fellow EVO-STIK League West Division club Trafford.

While Runcorn had the better of the overall play, but failed to convert their chances, Trafford were purposeful and clinical when the opportunity to attack came their way.

Danny O'Brien made a long-awaited return to the starting eleven at right back with Zac Aley filling in at left back.

Liam O'Niell made his first start for the Linnets, partnering Mitch Bryant in attack.

Conditions were awful in the first half as torrential rain engulfed the Millbank Linnets Stadium. However, the pitch held up well considering the blanket of snow that was still covering it on Saturday.

Runcorn started well, working several good openings in the first 15 minutes. A series of corners and shots from outside the Trafford penalty area all caused the visitors problems.

Aaron Morris did well to head Aley's corner kick into the danger area just in front of the Trafford goal but the visitors scrambled the ball clear.

With 21 minutes played, Trafford took the lead against the run of play.

Finding space near the right corner flag, they crossed for Elliot Harrison to give Matt Holmes no chance with a bullet header from eight yards out.

The visitors then had a good spell as they looked to increase their lead, and came very close on the half-hour mark when a stunning volley from 25 yards out beat Holmes but smacked into the crossbar and away from danger. However, this chance should not have arisen as, in the build-up, there had been a clear foul on Josh Dobie which wasn't given.

Dobie was having a real impact, the youngster clearly growing in confidence and finding his Linnets feet week by week. He was unlucky not to bring his side level when heading Aley's corner goalwards only for it to be cleared off the line by a Trafford defender.

The same player went close again as half-time approached when his shot from distance took a deflection and was spilled by Trafford goalkeeper Cooper.

Right on the stroke of half time, Cooper again kept his side ahead in the game with a terrific save from a blistering Kris Holt strike, which had seemed destined for the bottom corner.

Runcorn didn't deserve to be trailing at half time on the balance of play, so it came as a real punch in the gut when Trafford doubled their lead five minutes into the second half.

The ball was lost too easily in the Linnets midfield and worked out to Trafford striker Liam Ellis on the left wing.

Ellis cut inside, beating two Linnets defenders as he approached the penalty area, and shot across Holmes and into the far bottom corner.

In the 55th minute, the Linnets got themselves right back into the game. Zac Aley's corners had been threatening all night and when another inswinging flag kick found Ryan Gibson at the far post, Gibbo stooped to head the ball in and pull his side right back into the game.

Having played well despite being behind in the game, the expectancy when Gibson scored was an onslaught of Runcorn attacks.

However, this was not to be the outcome and the hosts rarely threatened the Trafford goal in the remainder.

In the 74th minute, the impressive Dobie was sent off by the referee, given a second yellow card for preventing a Trafford counter attack.

Trafford put the game beyond doubt late on when a left-wing counter attack found them outnumbering the backtracking Linnets defence.

A ball across the penalty area was slid into the goal by Aaron Burns.

In the last minute, Burns had a glorious chance to score a fourth Trafford goal after Bobby Evans, on as a substitute, had passed the ball across the pitch straight to Burns to give a clear run at goal.

But Burns went for a bit of glory, instead of a simple finish, and curled his shot just wide of the top corner.

For an hour, Linnets were well in this cup- tie, arguably the better team, but momentum dropped off after scoring and Trafford ultimately won through comfortably.

Runcorn return to league action at the Millbank Linnets Stadium on Saturday as they play Kidsgrove Athletic for the first time (ko 3pm).

Runcorn Linnets: Matt Holmes, Zac Aley, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Danny O'Brien, Josh Dobie, Kris Holt, Ryan Gibson, Mitch Bryant, Liam O'Neill, Kurt Sherlock. Subs: Ronnie McCarthy, Bobby Evans. Not used: Paul Shanley, Louis Corrigan, Chris Lawton.

Attendance: 261.

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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