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23rd March 2019, Radcliffe FC v Runcorn Linnets FC : 1-0

by Ste Bignall Runcorn Linnets were edged out by the finest of margins in an incredibly tight and well-fought match at Radcliffe on Saturday, the hosts scraping through thanks to a goal in first-half stoppage time.

The win put Radcliffe three points clear of the Linnets, the teams having gone into the game neck and neck in the league standings.

Tom Bailey led the Linnets attack once again with Bobby Evans and Ryan Gibson also retaining their places in the staring eleven.

Michael Ellison was also able to welcome back Freddie Potter into his squad with a place on the substitutes bench, the centre forward still working has way back from a serious wrist injury.

Radcliffe started the better and put the Runcorn defence under pressure when kicking down the significant slope.

A series of corners and free kicks in and around the Linnets' penalty area caused concern but all were well dealt with by the Runcorn rearguard. The closest either side came to scoring in the opening 20 minutes was a rasping volley from outside the penalty area. The shot dipped the wrong side of the Linnets crossbar as far as the home side was concerned.

The visitors were threatening when ever the opportunity for a counter attack presented itself. In the 25th minute, Linnets came agonisingly close to taking the lead following a great move. Kurt Sherlock and Ally Brown combined well on the right with Sherlock drawing the goalkeeper off his line and laying the ball off to Paul Shanley, whose shot looked destined to open the scoring - only for Kyle Harrison to pull off a magnificent goal line block with his chest. Ryan Gibson's rebound effort was also blocked on its route to goal.

A Radcliffe free kick that was dropped into the Runcorn six-yard box caused a chaotic goalmouth scramble before the ball was eventually cleared amid half-hearted penalty shouts from the home side. But as half time approached, it was the Linnets who again came so close to taking the lead. A long kick forward from goalkeeper Jordan Perrin caught out the Radcliffe defence and set Tom Bailey racing in on goal.

Bailey lifted the ball over the advancing goalkeeper but was denied by the bar with the ball bouncing down on the wrong side of tho goal line and out to safety.

The only goal of the game came with the interval almost upon the teams. A corner to the far post was attacked by Callum Grogan, who powered his way into position and headed the ball past Perrin from close range.

As in the first half, Radcliffe started the second half well. Perrin was called on to make a good save in the 52nd minute, the ball having been fired at him from close range by Ben Wharton.

Chances were at more of a premium for both sides in the second half, but with the Linnets not posing much of a threat to the Radcliffe goal, Ello decided to shake things up.

Mitch Bryant and Potter were brought on for Bailey and Evans. The doublechange had the desired effect and Runcorn went on to have the better of the final 20 minutes.

The visitors should have been awarded a penalty in the 71st minute when Ryan Gibson was brought down in the penalty area.

The referee seemed initially to have pointed to the penalty spot while holding the whistle to his lips, but Paul Shanley latched on to the loose ball and sent a shot well wide from just inside the penalty area.

With the match official still appearing to be pointing at the spot, and both sides assuming a penalty had been awarded, the verbal signal was for a goal kick to Radcliffe.

The referee when challenged by the Runcorn players over the decision, reportedly confirmed that he had given the advantage for Shanley's shot wide instead of seeing the penalty award through.

With time running out, Shanley picked up a frustrating second yellow card for simulation, meaning Runcorn played the last six minutes with 10 men.

In the 91st minute, it seemed as though the equaliser had finally arrived. Aaron Morris headed Louis Corrigan's free kick across goal into the path of Peter Wylie, who looked nailed on to salvage what would have been a deserved point for the Linnets.

But Wylie's header was somehow blocked on the line once again by Kyle Harrison, who had performed defensive heroics for his team.

Radcliffe saw out the final minutes out to spark jubilant scenes, the chants from their terraces claiming that this victory has set them on the road to winning the league title.

There was little to split the two sides on the day, and in a game where both displayed quality in all areas, Ello will undoubtedly be frustrated that it was a simple corner routine which ultimately separated two good teams.

The next game for Linnets is this Tuesday night's rearranged fixture at the MLS as we host Kendal Town. Kick off is at 7.45pm.

Runcorn Linnets: Jordan Perrin, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Ally Brown, Kris Holt, Bobby Evans, Ryan Gibson, Tom Bailey, Kurt Sherlock, Paul Shanley. Subs: Mitch Bryant, Freddie Potter. Not used: Josh Dobie, Frank Jones, Danny O'Brien.

Attendance: 516.



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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