5th March 2019, Runcorn Linnets FC v Cammell Laird 1907 : 2-1 Sponsored by Fore Golfers plus one
We secured our place with a narrow 2-1 victory against Cammell Laird 1907 in Tuesday night's semi of an historic and prestigious competition, which the former Linnets won 12 times.
It is some 21 years since Runcorn had a presence in the CSC Final. In 1998, the "old club", at that time playing in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, took on Macclesfield Town of the Football League 3rd Division - the Silkmen coming out with a narrow 0-1 victory at Northwich Victoria's then Drill Field ground.
Ello rang in the changes following Saturday's heavy defeat at Kidsgrove with Danny O'Brien, Louis Corrigan, Josh Dobie, Bobby Evans and Liam O'Niell all returning to the starting eleven.
Also included in the starting line-up was new signing from West Didsbury & Chorlton Tom Bailey. Tom has been one of the most feared strikers in the Hallmark Security League for a number of years, notching up eye-watering goal tallies for Glossop North End, 1874 Northwich and West Didsbury & Chorlton to name a few.
Tom was top goal scorer in the highly-successful Glossop team of 2014-15 when they pipped Joey Dunn's Linnets side to the league title, also scoring a goal at Wembley that year in the FA Vase final.
The game was played in horrendous weather with a driving rain and swirling wind closing in half an hour before kick off.
Cammell Laird 1907 are currently in the newly-formed Hallmark Security League 1st Division South, 58 league placings below the Linnets. But you would never have known that, given how well they played on the night.
Runcorn started well and came close to taking the lead in the third minute when Bailey set up Liam O'Neill who could only find the side netting with his shot.
With a quarter of an hour gone, Frank Jones had a great chance to put the Linnets ahead when Louis Corrigan's free-kickpicked him out for a close-range free header, but Jones's effort cleared the crossbar.
However, Jones wouldn't be denied his first Runcorn goal for long as he gave the home side the lead on 21 minutes.
Lairds failed to clear a corner and Jones was on hand to absolutely smash the ball into the net from six yards out, leaving Michael Dixon in the Lairds goal probably grateful that he had no chance of making a save!
Jordan Perrin, in the Runcorn goal, had to be on his toes to make a smart save from a well-struck free kick that stayed low and skidded up off the pitch making the save a difficult one. The ensuing loose ball was forced behind for a Lairds corner.
The Linnets had a couple of great opportunities to double their lead before half time but were unable to convert either. Firstly, Frank Jones went on a fantastic driving run, straight through the heart of Lairds midfield and defence, but then looked for a pass to Bailey instead of taking the shot on himself.
Bobby Evans then wasted a glorious opportunity on the stroke of half time when Paul Shanley broke up the right wing and drilled a low cross into the penalty area, picking out Evans run into the box with perfection. But Evans blazed the ball over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
Lairds had much more about them in the second half and made life very difficult for the Linnets. Runcorn got a lucky break in the 55th minute when a Lairds corner was powered into the back of the net with a bullet header. - but the referee had made an early call for a foul and awarded Runcorn a free kick to great sighs of relief.
On the hour mark, the Linnets had a goal of their own disallowed when a superb Liam O'Neill strike form a tight angle was flagged for offside, Lairds playing the offside trap to great effect all night.
In the 63rd minute Lairds got their chance to draw level when they won a penalty for a trip in the Linnets box, no disputing the decision.
Joshua Brabin - nephew of one-time Linnets favourite Gary - confidently beat Perrin with his spot kick to pull the side from Birkenhead level.
Lairds' equaliser actually woke the Linnets up somewhat; we had been a bit casual in our approach since the interval.
Only seven minutes after being pegged back, Runcorn took the lead again.
Louis Corrigan's corner kick was flick on at the near post and found the head of Aaron Morris who adjusted his body position quickly to beat Dixon and put Linnets firmly in sight of the cup final.
Lairds would not go down without a fight, however, and it twice fell upon Jordan Perrin to keep the Linnets in front.
Firstly, he came off his line quickly to block a one on one and then made a fantastic save, low to his right. The ball came at him like a flash, through a crowd of bodies, in a manic scramble in the Linnets penalty area.
With three minutes remaining, the Linnets had a great opportunity to seal their place in the final when Paul Shanley was tripped in the Lairds penalty area, the referee pointing to the penalty spot.
Louis Corrigan's kick was headed for the bottom corner but Dixon had guessed the right way and made a fantastic save to keep his side in the semi-final tie.
Ryan Gibson, on earlier as a substitute, almost scored a spectacular solo goal in the last minute of the game from a direct run into the Lairds penalty area. His shot beat Dixon but crashed back off the crossbar with Paul Shanley volleying the rebound just wide from fully 25 yards.
After somehow finding seven minutes of uncomfortable injury time, the referee finally brought proceedings to a close, confirming Michael Ellison's side as CSC Finalists!
The date, venue and opponents for the final are still to be confirmed, but we do know that we will face Nantwich Town or Stockport County, so keep an eye out for that result when it comes in!
Our next game is a rescheduled fixture this coming Saturday when we host Market Drayton Town at the Millbank Linnets Stadium for the first time. Kick off at 3pm.
Runcorn Linnets: Jordan Perrin, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Frank Jones, Danny O'Brien, Josh Dobie, Peter Wylie, Liam O'Neill, Tom Bailey, Bobby Evans, Paul Shanley. Subs: Ryan Gibson, Harrison Coady. Not used: Mitch Bryant, Ronnie McCarthy, Chris Lawton.
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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