9th March 2019, Runcorn Linnets FC v Market Drayton Town : 4-1
There were changes to the side again with Ally Brown, Josh Dobie and Bobby Evans joining the starting eleven, while frontman Tom Bailey made his first league start for the Linnets.
Runcorn got at Market Drayton straight from the kick off, with the pace of Shanley, O'Neill and Gibson making the afternoon a difficult one for the visitors' defence.
After only seven minutes O'Neill cut in from the left and was tripped in the penalty box with a spot kick being awarded for the blatant foul.
Having had a penalty saved in midweek against Cammel Laird, Louis Corrigan stood aside, allowing Tom Bailey his chance to open his Linnets account. But Tom's spot kick was casual and too close to the goalkeeper, Ashley Rawlins turning the ball over the crossbar.
Thankfully, for Runcorn it was the smallest of blips, as from the corner kick Peter Wylie forced in a great header at the far post to give the home side the lead.
Runcorn were well in control and felt hard done to on several occasions not to be awarded any additional penalty kicks for what looked like a raft of clear-cut offences in the Drayton 18 yard box,. But the referee, Lewis Raper was unmoved.
Tom Bailey hit a rasping strike from 25 yards that drew a flying save out of Rawlins, and midway the first half, Louis Corrigan and Ryan Gibson both went close to doubling the Linnets' advantage.
With 38 minutes played, Runcorn did get a deserved second goal. Paul Shanley beat a man as he cut in from the left wing into the Drayton penalty box and was almost brought down by a late challenge.
But he managed to stay on his feet and dink a terrific looped ball to the far post that picked out Tom Bailey, who powered in a header from close range to score his first Linnets goal.
Two-nil almost became 3-0 shortly before half time, Paul Shanley again causing chaos for Market Drayton as he swung in a cross from the left wing that was carried by the wind, beat the goalkeeper but crashed back off the crossbar before being cleared.
Market Drayton started the second half well and within a minute of the restart drew a great save from Jordan Perrin when breaking into the penalty area at pace. Perrin was quick off his line to make a brave block.
With the half time brews still warm, Market Drayton did get a goal back. A wicked corner kick, helped on its way by the swirling wind, deceived the Linnets defence and allowed Joshua Bradburn to slide in to score at the far post, from inside the six- yard box.
Market Drayton had a 10-minute spell where they had plenty of the ball without really threatening Perrin's goal, but Runcorn soon reasserted their command of the game.
Liam O'Neill set up Tom Bailey but his shot was well saved by Rawlins, one of a string of excellent second-half saves by the visitors' goalkeeper. The best of these came in the 71st minute when Aaron Morris diverted a corner kick goalwards with a header from close range that Rawlins somehow saved on the goal line - a strong left hand not only making the save but turning the ball away from danger.
A minute later, Rawlins denied Paul Shanley who had been teed up by Ryan Gibson, and then it was Gibson himself who drew another fine stop from Rawlins - a back post header being saved, following a sublime cross from Louis Corrigan.
In the 84th minute, Runcorn scored the goal which secured the three points. Market Drayton were incensed that Mitch Bryant, on earlier as a substitute for Tom Bailey, wasn't pulled up for an offence in the build up to the move.
Bryant fed the ball to Shanley on the left and Shanners took his usual direct route into the visitors' penalty area, and his left footed shot at goal somehow squirmed through the grasp of Rawlins and dropped in at the far post. It was a goal that Shanley more than deserved for an outstanding performance throughout but the circumstances were cruel on Rawlins after his very impressive afternoon's work.
Frustration boiled over in the Market Drayton camp when Lyndon Campbell was shown a straight red card for a dangerous challenge a minute after conceding the third goal, leaving the visitors with 10 men for the final six minutes.
And as the clock ticked to 90 minutes, the game was put beyond any doubt when Ryan Gibson danced his way into the penalty area and was tripped in a very similar fashion to Liam O'Neill right at the start of the game.
Louis Corrigan put his shooting boots back on and found the top corner with a perfectly-struck penalty, sending Rawlins the wrong way.
This was an excellent performance from the Linnets across the board, one of those games where everyone excelled. If it had not been for an inspired goalkeeping show by Ashley Rawlins then the scoreline would have been different without a doubt.
Ello always demands that his players respond after a defeat, and this was a determined response to the heavy league setback of a week earlier.
We are at home again this coming Saturday when we welcome the Mintcakes from Kendal Town to the Millbank Linnets Stadium. Kick off is at 3pm.
Runcorn Linnets: Jordan Perrin, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Ally Brown, Josh Dobie, Bobby Evans, Ryan Gibson, Tom Bailey, Liam O'Neill, Paul Shanley. Subs: Mitch Bryant. Not used: Ronnie McCarthy, Zac Aley, Frank Jones, Danny O'Brien.
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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