17th September 2016, Barnoldswick Town v Runcorn Linnets FC : 0-2By Ste Bignall
Runcorn Linnets continued their excellent form of late, leaving Barnoldswick's Silent Night Stadium with a clean sheet and three thoroughly-deserved points on a glorious Saturday afternoon.
Barnoldswick had made a solid start to the season and began the day in ninth place, having played two games fewer than Linnets and always pose a tough challenge on their home patch.
Kyle Hamid returned to the starting eleven for Anthony Donaldson in an otherwise unchanged side. Wearing their Dutch-style away kit, Michael Ellison's men set about dominating the game from the off but did so without really creating much in the way of early goal scoring opportunities.
Meanwhile, Barlick's threat came from adventurous long- range efforts.
As always, the pace on either flank for Linnets was causing problems for the opposition's full backs, Bev Burey and Paul Shanley running with the ball at speed to try to force an opening.
It was skipper Kyle Hamid, who opened the scoring on the half hour. Adam Wade did very well when surrounded by Barlick players on the right touchline to slip away from their grasp and pull the ball back for Hamid.
The skipper was waiting in the 'D' outside the penalty box, and when the ball reached him, he calmly swept it goalwards and straight into the bottom corner for 0-1.
Mark Houghton had a goal ruled out, correctly, for offside after good play by Wade and Hamid before Barlick got away on the counter attack but sliced an attempt at goal 15 yards wide.
The second half was much of the same, Linnets dominating throughout but this time making much clearer scoring opportunities.
Mark Houghton headed Danny McKenna's pin point cross wide when well placed, and, not long after, Hamid forced the ball through to Houghton who looked certain to score only for Barlick's keeper to scramble the ball wide of the post.
Houghto deserved a goal for his energy and chances missed and he duly got his just rewards by turning in the most difficult effort of the lot mid way through the second half.
Bev Burey won the pace war on the right flank all afternoon and when he got away once again, the winger floated a ball towards the front post that the 'keeper came to gather - only for Houghto to nip in front of him.
With back to goal, flick the ball over his and the goalkeeper's head and set off in celebration as the ball looped in under the crossbar.
Barlick tried to take advantage as Linnets took their foot briefly off the gas, much to the frustration of manager Ellison.
A volley over the bar from 18 yards was the closest the hosts would come all afternoon.
Ellison introduced Taylor Kennerley, Steve Foster and Vita Mbdokele for the last 20 minutes as the visiting side closed the game out comfortably to secure a thoroughly-deserved and highly-satisfying win at a notoriously-difficult place to do so.
With no midweek fixture for the first time since the opening week of the season, Michael Ellison and Matty Cross will have two good training sessions to prepare for a Saturday visit to the Millbank by many people's tip for the title this year, Atherton Collieries.
Runcorn Linnets: Tom Hunt, Danny McKenna, Chris Lawton, Aaron Morris, Danny O'Brien, Adam Wade, Ronnie McCarthy, Kyle Hamid, Mark Houghton, Paul Shanley, Bevan Burey. Subs: Steve Foster, Vita Mbdokele, Taylor Kennerley. Not used: Andy Thorpe, Sean Carlson.
NB. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Runcorn Linnets FC or its Board.