From sublime night to real off day for Linnets
RUNCORN LINNETS ................................. 5 WINSFORD UNITED ................................. 0
IN the Weekly News the day before (as well as the match programme) Runcorn Linnets manager Michael Ellison told of how he had demanded a response from his players after last week’s disappointing result in the FA Cup.
What he got was a response of epic proportions as his men turned in an attacking masterclass to send Winsford back down the M6 on the end of a 5-0 thumping.
The Millbank Linnets Stadium was hosting its first-ever Friday night match and the bumper crowd of almost 400 was treated to an excellent evening’s football in lovely August evening warmth.
The scoreline suggests a walk in the park for Linnets but that was far from the case with Winsford matching the hosts for much of the first half.
Neither team created much in the way of early clear-cut chances despite a glittering display of high-paced, slick, attacking football, the defences of both sides coming out on top.
Linnets came close to scoring a contender for own goal of the season when Kieran Nolan scooped a pass back to Terry Smith from 20 yards away. This looked as though it might drop under the crossbar but the goalkeeper did well to scramble the ball clear and to safety.
Winsford’s stubborn rearguard was breached on 36 minutes when Paul Shanley sent Mike Simpson away down the right wing, and his perfect low cross took both goalkeeper and defence out of the game to allow Callum Lucy to volley in at the far post.
Linnets went about seizing control of ● Callum Lucy celebrates his first half double for Runcorn Linnets against Winsford United last Friday evening. the match and dealt the visitors a crushing blow in the second minute of firsthalf stoppage time.
Lucy bludgeoned his way into the penalty area through a seemingly impenetrable wall of blue and unleashed an explosive left-footed drive that Winsford goalkeeper Michael Langley got both hands on but could not even alter the flight of the ball.
Winsford would have been sat in the dressing room wondering how they were two goals behind, but it was to get much worse for them.
Much of the early second half was an attritional affair with neither side creating any chances of note, but this changed with 25 minutes to go when Paul Shanley found space on the right and his cross to the near post was slotted home by substitute Stuart Wellstead.
With Winsford heads now dropped, the hosts went about closing the game out in style. Anthony Hickey, on as an early substitute for the injured Zac Aley, got his name on the scoresheet with 15 minutes remaining. Shanley found space again on the right of the penalty area and served up another perfect centre into the path of the on-rushing Hickey, who beat the goalkeeper to score the fourth goal of the night.
The final goal was both created and scored by second half substitutes.
Vice-captain Mark Houghton was the final substitute of the contest and he helped to set up the goal from the right side of the penalty area.
Houghton’s cross was controlled by Wellstead, whose touch and shoulder drop took two defenders out of the game. He then rifled the ball past Langley to score a classy second himself and bring a thoroughly satisfying and entertaining evening to a close.
There were simply no negatives to take from this performance. The defensive unit did all that was asked of it, which was more than the scoreline suggests, but in attack the Linnets were absolutely devastating. It’s not often that you see chances converted so clinically at this level and indeed several levels above.
What was especially pleasing was the display of strength in squad depth, with all three substitutes adding significantly to the game and being directly involved in three of the goals. SO from the highs of Friday evening, Linnets plummeted to the lows of Bank Holiday Monday afternoon as they crashed to a dreadful 4-0 defeat to a rampant West Didsbury & Chorlton outfit.
A straight red card shown to Linnets defender Tom Hardwick for use of an elbow added to the misery for Michael Ellison’s men. By the time Hardwick departed just before the interval, Linnets were already three goals down as Saul Henderson with a brace and Nic Evangelinos all found the net.
Henderson completed his hat-trick early in the second half and it was to Runcorn’s credit that they shipped no further goals from that point.
Ellison will certainly be looking for a rapid and very positive reaction from his players this Saturday when they entertain Padiham at the Millbank Linnets Stadium (kick-off 3pm).