4th October 2016, Runcorn Linnets FC v Bootle : 5-0 Sponsored by Hedley EdwardsBy Dave Bettley
AN illuminating display of their own under the floodlights at The Millbank Linnets Stadium saw Runcorn Linnets demolish in-form Bootle to leapfrog their visitors in the Hallmark Security League Premier Division.
The Linnets made it eight wins from 11 unbeaten games in all competition, climbing into third spot.
Having scored 17 goals in their last five outings, Bootle barely got a look-in against an irresistible home side.
Manager Michael Ellison's jubilation as he led his players off the field said it all about the dominant display and just how much it meant.
It was a performance which just about had it all – solid and organised in defence; combative and creative in midfield; fast, incisive and clinical going forward.
Most of all, there was energy and industry all over the park, with players willingly working hard for each other.
Bootle were blown away as Runcorn scored three times before the break to underline just how far their young team has come in a short time, after an unsteady start.
The Linnets are now unbeaten since August 20th and after landing September's Club of the Month award, they have set themselves up for a successful October with two big wins in cup and league.
It was all downhill for Bootle once they had conceded the opening goal in the 19th minute - what was surely intended as a cross by Runcorn's tenacious teenage left full-back, Danny McKenna sneaking in at the near post.
Bootle's goalkeeper Ryan Jones did their best to try to persuade the referee that the ball had not crossed the line, but it clearly had.
The visitors soon had their only genuine chance of the evening, but the shot veered wide of the left post, and after Mark Houghton had gone close, the Linnets duly added a sublime second.
Kyle Hamid, with ability to match his excellent work rate, sold Bootle a dummy, enabling midfield partner Adam Wade to thread through a pass for Antony Hickey to run on to.
The wide man advanced in the inside right channel before unleashing a shot across the 'keeper and into the far corner – it was in from the moment it left his boot.
Runcorn made the points all but safe in the dying seconds of the half, further exhibiting the extra pace they have in their armoury this season with a swift counter attack.
Paul Shanley was released down the left touchline and, with speed and presence of mind, he cut inside to deliver a cross. Hamid did well to make up the ground into the penalty box and even better to score with a flying header.
There was barely time to restart the game and while Linnets fans could have been excused for thinking that things could not get any better in the second half, they certainly did.
Seven minutes in, Hotshot Houghton - a revelation this season after reverting to his natural position as a central striker - drilled home the 50th goal of his Linnets career. This was from another electrifying move, which began with a kick upfield from goalkeeper Tom Hunt.
It culminated in Hickey finding Hamid on the right of the box, the back pedalling skipper waiting for the right moment to deliver a low cross, which his deputy Houghton hammered in hard and true.
Houghton then polished off the job in the 77th minute with a close-range finish after more exhilarating play, involving Hickey and Shanley.
This was a chastening experience for Bootle, who had conceded five for a second successive away match (although at Maine Road, they had scored four of their own).
The Bucks had four ex-Runcorn players in their ranks including two from last season's Linnets squad in Ryan Cox and Steve Jones, who have been on prolific scoring runs.
A fifth former Linnet, Dean Porter – having also departed the Millbank Linnets Stadium in the summer – looked on in anguish from the sidelines.
In light of his old club's attacking menace, perhaps it wasn't such a bad night to be injured after all.
The Linnets now look to continue to put pressure on the top two sides 1874 Northwich and Atherton Collieries, with a game in hand on both, when travelling to Manchester on Saturday to face Maine Road.
Road scored six in consecutive matches towards the end of September before closing the month with that five-goal haul against Bootle.
They have lost their first two matches this month, but by the narrowest margins, to second-placed Colls in the league and Glossop North End, of Evo-Stik League Division One North, in the Manchester Premier Cup.
So the trip to Brantingham Road is likely to be another big test of the Linnets' ambitions.
Runcorn Linnets: Tom Hunt, Danny McKenna, Chris Lawton, Aaron Morris, Danny O'Brien, Ronnie McCarthy (Kris Holt 70), Aadam Wade, Kyle Hamid, Mark Houghton (Steve Foster 79), Paul Shanley, Antony Hickey (Bevan Burey 85). Subs (not used): Taylor Kennerley, Vita Mbdokele.
NB. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Runcorn Linnets FC or its Board.