25th October 2016, Runcorn Linnets FC v Barnton : 5-2By Ste Bignall
Runcorn Linnets got over the disappointment of their last-gasp weekend defeat in the FA Vase at South Shields by recording a convincing 5-2 Hallmark Security League victory over local rivals Barnton.
This is Barnton's first season in the Premier Division and the Villagers have found it a tough step up, currently sitting in the bottom three of the league table.
However, they put on a spirited showing throughout, never rolling over as the goals kept going in against them.
Michael Ellison again chose the same starting 11 that has seen him through much of the recent good form.
However, it was evident from the beginning that there were some heavy legs from Saturday's gruelling encounter in the North East.
Barnton set off like a train and forced Tom Hunt into a good save, low to his left early on.
Soon after this, the away side should have taken the lead when a pinpoint cross from the right picked out the unmarked Chris Smith, who had the goal gaping before him.
But he could only slice his header away from goal and back into play, a big let-off for the Linnets.
This sparked Ello's men into life; they seemed to find an extra 20% from somewhere and began to dominate proceedings from there on.
Danny McKenna's free-kick beat the wall but was saved and this was followed by a series of corners that Barnton did well to defend.
The deadlock was broken with 20 minutes on the clock. McKenna combined well on the left with Paul Shanley, and when McKenna's deep cross was headed back by Antony Hickey, across goal and over the keeper's head, Ronnie McCarthy was offered the simple chance from close range.
It was 2-0 ten minutes later, when Mark Houghton picked up a loose ball in the penalty area and danced past three Barnton defenders before getting a shot away from 12 yards that went straight through Matt Conkie in the Villagers' goal.
Barnton were given s sniff as half-time approached when a seemingly simple defensive situation was thrown into chaos by an unbelievable spin on the ball that took it away from Tom Hunt and into the danger area.
The googly-type turn caught both sets of players out and the ball was scrambled clear.
The second half continued in the same way that the first half ended, with Linnets in complete ascendancy and hunting out more goals.
The match was over as a contest 10 minutes into the second half, when Runcorn were awarded a penalty for a clear foul on Houghton. No complaints from Barnton and Kyle Hamid stepped up to send the 'keeper the wrong way and male the scoreline 3-0.
The fourth goal followed almost immediately and it was without doubt the goal of the night. Great work by Danny O'Brien, on the right flank, got him into a position where he could pull the ball back from the by-line to the edge of the 18-yard box.
Hamid was prowling, and he effortlessly latched on to a half volley that started wide but curled around the outstretched fingertips of Conkie and inside the near post - a terrific finish from a player on top of his game!
New signing from 1874 Northwich, Stuart Welstead was introduced with half an hour to go and made an immediate impact, setting up Hickey to score only for the linesman to flag for an offside.
Chris Lawton was the victim of a surprising decision as he missed a close-range header, the ball dropping off his head and striking his arm a yard from goal.
Despite the fact that ball went wide and Lawton was looking in the other direction, he was given a yellow card for deliberate handball.
The big centre half soon after made a teriffic goal-line clearance as a now tiring back four started to be asked questions by Barnton's pacey attack.
Danny McKenna limped off with an injury and was replaced by Taylor Kennerley as the game entered its final stages, before Hickey made it 5-0 with 10 minutes to play.
McCarthy slid an excellent through ball into Hamid, who squared across goal for Hickey to finish from a few yards out, despite being pressured by two Barnton defenders.
Further injury concern struck when Danny O'Brien was chasing a Barnton player down the wing at pace, the full back going down in a heap under no challenge with what looked like a certain muscle pull at the very least.
He left the pitch on the shoulders of two of his colleagues which forced the home side to see the game out with 10 men, Ellison having already made all three substitutions.
Barnton got a deserved goal of their own in the 88th minute, the ball being lost by Linnets with makeshift left back Taylor Kennerley out of position and when the Villagers attacked the empty space, ex-Runcorn Town stalwart James McShane applied a splendid finish across Tom Hunt that gave the Pink Panther no chance.
Shanley, who had already done everything but score, hit the crossbar in injury time before Barnton scored another.
A free-kick on the right flank was sent into the box and Chris Smith was allowed a free header from a few yards out to make up for his earlier miss at 0-0.
At the full-time whistle, the Linnets players looked relieved to be able to rest their tired and aching legs, the hangover from Saturday abundantly clear and no doubt having had a part to play in the injuries to both full backs.
McKenna and O'Brien both left the pitch at full time walking unaided, which is a good sign. Fingers crossed that neither of the injuries are serious or likely to lead to extended time on the sidelines.
The Linnets are at home again on Saturday in the second round of the Macron Challenge Cup against Ashton Athletic (ko 3pm)
Runcorn Linnets: Tom Hunt, Danny McKenna, Chris Lawton, Aaron Morris, Danny O'Brien, Adam Wade, Ronnie McCarthy, Kyle Hamid (capt), Mark Houghton, Paul Shanley, Antony Hickey. Subs: Stuart Wellstead, Kris Holt, Taylor Kennerley. Not used: Bevan Burey, Matt Cross.
NB. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Runcorn Linnets FC or its Board.