20th August 2016, Runcorn Town v Runcorn Linnets FC : 3-1by Ste Bignall
It was derby day heartache for everyone connected to the yellow and green half of Runcorn as Town won a league fixture against Linnets for the first time since April 2013.
There was a wholly unusual and rather subdued atmosphere at this game in comparison to previous derbies, no doubt the timing of the rearranged fixture playing a big part in that.
The change from the Boxing Day/Easter Monday rotation that we have become accustomed to definitely had an impact, with the crowd of 357 by far the lowest that has been achieved for the keynote fixture.
Both clubs have been through enormous transition on the field since the end of last season, with Town's long-serving custodian Si Burton moving on to be replaced by Chris Herbert, a relative unknown in Hallmark Security League circles.
"Herbie", as they call him, has brought in a completely new squad and when you consider the changes in the Linnets team, it was amazing to also hear that only one player in Town's squad had taken part in a Runcorn derby previously.
Linnets were missing numerous players from their own ranks today; a combination of injuries, suspension and natural unavailability all accounting for at least half of the starting 11. We had three players making their Linnets debuts - Simon Woodford, in defence, Steve Foster up front and Thomas Hunt in goal, our third goalkeeper in three league fixtures.
Making their first appearances this term were skipper Kyle Hamid and Adam Donohue.
The Linnets started the stronger, Bev Burey giving Town's defence something to think about before Adam Wade fired the first meaningful effort of the game over the bar.
It was slightly against the run of play when the hosts took the lead on 10 minutes. Hunt made a fantastic finger tip save from a quick counter attack, but when the resulting corner was swung in and headed goalwards by the unmarked Carl Rodgers, the loose ball was poked in by Daniel Jarrett from a yard out.
A couple of decent chances went begging for the home side, Craig Cairns missing the target on both occasions when well placed, before Town were gifted an opportunity to double their advantage. A very poor challenge in the area by Aaron Morris was correctly pulled up by the referee for a penalty with Cairns blasting the spot kick straight down the centre of the net.
Linnets were appealing for a penalty of their own soon after, when Steve Foster was pushed over in the penalty area but the appeals were to no avail. Philip Doran, twin brother of former Linnets player Peter, almost turned the ball into his own net just before half-time but his blushes were spared by young Ciaran O'Loughlin in the Town goal.
The second half was largely a non-event for the first 25 minutes, Linnets finally starting to exert some control over the game without really threatening, and the unseasonably high winds doing nothing to help either side.
The men in yellow and green were offered a lifeline with 20 minutes to go when Foster scored a sublime goal, volleying Kyle Hamid's pass straight over the head of O'Loughlin from just outside the penalty area.
This prompted a Linnets charge for the equaliser, Town dropping an extra man into defence and visiting manager Michael Ellison, bereft of attacking options, choosing to counter this by bringing on Kevin McGrath and Marcus Cusani and putting them both up front with Foster.
Despite this bold move, the killer ball was constantly lacking for the Linnets and a clear chance could not be created, not for want of trying. It was no real surprise when, as often happens in these situations, Town broke quickly on the counter attack up the right wing.
Despite the best efforts of the Linnets back four to clear, their day was summed up when the ball ricocheted to the unmarked Jack Irlam who had the simple task of securing the points for his side at the far post.
This was quite an ugly match to watch, a combination of the weather and unfamiliarity of both sides leading to a game of little quality from either side, Linnets goal apart. There was no question, however, that our neighbours deserved their win, and with better finishing the scoreline could have been more painful for the Linnets faithful.
This was a derby that came much too soon for Ello, who is still in the experimental stages with his squad gaining additions on an almost daily basis.
The likelihood is that the return fixture on Boxing Day, when both sides are more settled, will be more like a derby of old.
Runcorn Linnets: Thomas Hunt, Dan McKenna, Chris Lawton, Simon Woodford, Adam Donohue, Adam Wade, Aaron Morris, Kyle Hamid, Steve Foster, Allan Collins, Bevan Burey. Subs: Marcus Cusani, Kev McGrath, Tony Donaldson. Not used: Danny O'Brien, Sean Carlson.
NB. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Runcorn Linnets FC or its Board.