27th April 2019, Glossop North End v Runcorn Linnets FC : 0-2
OUR debut EVO-STIK League Division One West season was alive and kicking until its final seconds at Glossop North End on Saturday.
But, ultimately, an excellent performance and victory weren't enough to secure a promotion play-off spot.
Results elsewhere had promised to fall into place for Michael Ellison's men but didn't quite get there, after an afternoon of high tension.
Linnets finished in sixth, one place outside the qualifying positions - only missing out on goal difference.
The unseasonal torrential rain brought in by storm Hannah created unusual playing conditions for a season-closing fixture, but if anything, this added to a fantastic atmosphere at Surrey Street, scene of several epic footballing battles between the two sides over the last decade.
There were a couple of changes to the side which had lost out on Bank Holiday Monday against Widnes, youngster Frank Jones partnering Aaron Morris in the heart of the defence with Peter Wylie being pushed into midfield. Kurt Sherlock was also given a starting place.
Runcorn opened the game well but, for the second successive match, they came up against an inspired former Linnets goalkeeper -Matty Holmes, like Richie Mottram before him, providing a difficult obstacle.
With nine minutes played, a set-piece was cleared by Glossop but Freddie Potter chased the loose ball and whipped in what Alan Shearer used to call a "striker's cross". It dropped perfectly into the six-yard box, where Frank Jones flew in with a diving header. But Holmes somehow blocked it when a goal seemed certain.
Ryan Gibson had a close-range header saved before another unbelievable close- range block by Holmes kept the Linnets out again. This time, a great move up the left wing allowed Louis Corrigan time to cross low into the heart of the six-yard box and Potter sent the ball goalwards with a close- range volley, which Holmes again somehow kept out.
With half-time a couple of minutes away and Runcorn having dominated the first half, the deadlock was broken.
Gibson was fouled outside the Glossop penalty area, giving Corrigan the chance of a trademark free kick.
Matty Holmes took an ill-timed step to the left which offered Corrigan a window of of opportunity that the full back found with deadly accuracy - curling the ball around the wall, instead of over it, and into the far corner.
Much to their credit, and despite having only pride to play for, Glossop came out looking a different team in the second half and made a real fist of things.
Tom Scott was called on several times to take difficult catches in a crowded penalty area, and he also did well to save a low shot which was skidding across the greasy surface on its way to goal.
Just past the hour mark, a good passage of play by Runcorn set Kurt Sherlock away up the left wing, with Kurt cutting inside and laying the ball off to Kris Holt, who was hanging stealthily outside the penalty area.
Holt's superb strike towards the far bottom corner of goal drew a flying save from Holmes, who was continuing his role as the Linnets foil for the day!
In the last 10 minutes, the Runcorn legs started to tire and Glossop sensed an opportunity to salvage something. Twice in as many minutes, it was left to Scott to protect his clean sheet, first up by clinging to another shot that flew up off the now sodden surface with a glut of Glossop players ready to pounce on any loose rebound.
This was quickly followed by a fantastic reaction save as a shot was deflected at pace only a few yards out.Scott kept it out with a flick of his right leg.
With Glossop committing men forward, gaps had started to appear at the other end. With four minutes remaining, the Linnets scored their final goal of the season to put the game beyond doubt and leave supporters frantically updating web pages on their phones to check scores in the other critical fixtures.
Kris Holt, with space in midfield, picked out a sublime pass to the left wing where Zac Aley had made a run.
Aley took the ball under control, advanced five yards and delivered an inch-perfect early cross to the far post where Freddie Potter turned the ball home - using the wet pitch to his advantage by sliding in to convert the chance.
It was an excellent all-round goal with which to win a game and also end the season!
The sense of disappointment was shortlived and quickly turned into a bursting sense of pride at what has been achieved in an excellent first tilt at Northern Premier League football.
The Linnets' players showed their appreciation to the 200- strong army of drenched Linnets supporters. Many of them had taken up their usual position by the tunnel, despite the weather, to applaud both teams off the pitch.
Runcorn Linnets: Tom Scott, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Frank Jones, Ally Brown, Kris Holt, Peter Wylie, Ryan Gibson, Freddie Potter, Kurt Sherlock, Paul Shanley; Subs: Zac Aley. Not used: Josh Dobie, Danny O'Brien, Bobby Evans, Chris Lawton.
And that is that! The almost universal response from Linnets supporters is that nobody expected us to be taking a play-off push to literally the final kick of the season.
We didn't really know at the start what to expect from this league with so many new teams to visit and the step up in quality being vast between this level and Step Five from which we came.
Michael Ellison has the highest of expectations from himself, his staff and players, but he should be very pleased with the season he has given the club.
Most believe that had it not been for catastrophic luck with injuries then a play-off spot would have been secured a while ago such was our form right up to March.
Under Ello, we have taken forward steps season after season, so with experience now behind us, I for one am already looking forward to our assault on the league next season and where it will take us!
I hope you have all enjoyed the match reports this year, and I'm looking forward to doing it all over again next time around!
Have a great summer everyone, enjoy the break from football (impossible I know!) and I will see you all in the friendlies! Cheers, Ste Biggy
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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