Trophy woe but Linnets do stay at the summit
ATHERTON COLLIERIES ......................... 4 RUNCORN LINNETS ................................. 2
RUNCORN LINNETS’ maiden voyage in the Buildbase FA Trophy ended on Saturday without ever really started.
Their wretched form in cup competitions over the last four years shows no signs of letting up.
A much-changed Linnets side were dealt a blow from which it proved too difficult to recover – Paul Shanley being sent-off with barely 30 minutes played. The referee showed the Linnets skipper for the day a second yellow card for what he adjudged to have been a dive, after an earlier caution for a foul.
Missing personnel prompted Michael Ellison to change his usual shape with Josh Dobie, Bobby Evans and Adam Gilchrist all brought into the starting XI.
Freddie Potter, Ronnie McCarthy, Kyle Hamid and Kurt Sherlock missed out completely while Danny O’Brien and Mike Simpson started the match on the substitutes’ bench.
The opening exchanges were very low key, the game being played at a slow and steady pace with Linnets kicking up the significant Skuna Stadium slope.
Colls had a good chance to open the scoring when Jordan Cover found space at the far post but sliced his shot wide.
It would only be a stay of execution for the Linnets, though, as the hosts did break the deadlock on 25 minutes.
Adam Farrell nicked the ball from the feet of the Linnets backline and took an early shot from 25 yards that beat goalkeeper Dylan Forth low at his right post.
The next 10 minutes of the game were packed with incident as Colls took control and looked to extend their lead.
Not long after conceding the opener, the Linnets’ task was made all the more difficult as Shanley was given his marching orders, dismissed by the referee for simulation with the winger claiming he had been felled in the home side’s penalty area.
With Linnets rattled, Colls had a great chance to double their lead when a ball to the far post found players to spare. But with too much time on their hands, indecisiveness got in the way and the chance was wasted.
On 36 minutes, and totally against the ● run of play, Runcorn found an equaliser.
Kris Holt, a former long-serving Atherton player, won the ball in a challenge 25 yards from goal and, in very similar fashion to Colls’ goal, he hit an early strike from well outside the penalty area that found the bottom corner of the net.
Gilchrist was subjected to a ferocious tackle in front of the dugouts as half-time approached, and with players from both sides surrounding the referee, only a yellow card was shown for the challenge.
Louis Corrigan was also booked for his protests after the incident.
Colls came out strongly in the second half and took control of the cup-tie. Within five minutes, they had retaken the advantage when a cross from the right by Connor Gaul was headed in from close-range by Cover.
It then took three brilliant quickfire saves by Forth to keep Linnets in the game. He saved twice from close-range and then again from a free header off an Atherton corner.
In the 69th minute, Colls as good as sealed the deal with the simplest of goals. With time and space on the right of midfield, a ball picked out the run of Cover, who had the freedom of the Linnets penalty area to round Forth and slide home his side’s third goal.
Connor McCarthy, the standout Linnets player on the day, gave his side some hope with 13 minutes remaining with a goal of real quality.
Regaining possession from an opposition full-back on the corner of the 18-yard box, McCarthy turned to hit a first-time shot that curled beyond the stretch of Colls goalkeeper Dale Latham and into the far bottom corner.
However, unlike in the 3-2 league defeat on the same ground a week earlier, the late Linnets’ charge never came.
Colls, in fact, went one better this time by scoring a fourth goal.
A free-kick on the edge of the Linnets’ penalty area by James Sigsworth took a deflection off the defensive wall and spun away into the bottom corner, leaving Forth with no chance of making a save.
The result was the right one on the day. Runcorn never got going in the game and did very well to be in with a shout until the last five minutes.
Colls face a trip up to the North East to face Marske United in the next round. RUNCORN LINNETS ................................. 0 RADCLIFFE FC .......................................... 0 RUNCORN LINNETS drew a rare blank on Tuesday evening when they shared a goalless draw with Radcliffe FC at the Millbank Linnets Stadium.
From the kick-off, it was clear that both sides had come to play football and take all three points.
The big chance of the match came on 26 minutes to the usually ruthless Connor McCarthy. Danny O’Brien had picked out the run of Paul Shanley with a superb ball to the far post and the latter unselfishly headed the ball across into McCarthy’s path. It could only have been a momentary lapse of concentration as McCarthy swung his boot over the top of the ball when any contact at all would have broken the deadlock. Instead, the ball trickled past the post and out of play.
First half stopage time saw a super save from Radcliffe goalkeeper Ollie Martin as McCarthy forced his way into the penalty area and got a powerful shot away from 10 yards. But Martin was out quickly to make a brave block.
Five minutes into the second half, Martin kept his side level again with a double save at the foot of the goalpost, initially from McCarthy’s header and then from Freddie Potter’s rebound.
From the resulting corner, another Linnets effort on goal somehow did not go in. Louis Corrigan swung in a wicked flag-kick that found its way to Peter Wylie on the Radcliffe line, but the pace of the ball and the fact it came through a crowd of players caught the Linnets player by surprise. He could not contort his body quickly enough to force the ball over the line and Radcliffe scrambled it clear.
On 77 minutes, it looked like the deadlock had finally been broken when a Radcliffe free-kick to the far post was powerfully headed in. However, it was chalked off for offside.
Late in the game, Runcorn won a free kick five yards outside the Radcliffe penalty area. Louis Corrigan pulled the trigger, his free-kick beating the wall and bending below the crossbar only for Martin to produce a flying save to guarantee his side a point.
The incident inside the Atherton penalty area, which saw Paul Shanley (orange) sent off – the referee giving the Runcorn Linnets skipper for the day a second yellow card, after ruling he had taken a dive.