7th April 2018, Maine Road v Runcorn Linnets FC : 0-5
Before this game there was plenty to concern the average Linnets fan - mainly as to whether or not we had another football free weekend.
There was a deluge in Runcorn all morning that necessitated the postponement of another game for our nearly beloved neighbours from Weston.
Most of us would not have been surprised had the midday pitch inspection in South Manchester led to the same conclusion.
However, we needn't have worried; the pitch was a real credit to the Maine Road club and the football played on the day was all the better for their efforts.
Michael Ellison shuffled his pack again for the trip. The almost ever-present Paul Shanley was re-joined by Mark Houghton, recalled along with Adam Jones and Kris Holt. Freddie Potter and Kieran Nolan dropped to the bench alongside a fit again Aaron Morris, Matt Atherton keeping his place at centre half after a couple of solid performances.
Speaking of solid performances, the LSU turned up in spectacular fashion. There was social media evidence of a very early start in a pub that probably didn't know what hit it.
Then a water pistol fight that led to the tweet of the day from Caleb…two words only: "Grow up!"… harsh but probably fair!
Linnets got the game underway and the football that followed was consistently decent from both sides. The home team had to deal with a Linnets team dominant in possession and able to attack from literally all angles.
In the sixth minute, a good Linnets move teed up Michael Simpson for a shot from the edge of the box that he pulled wide of Ryan Livesey's right hand post.
Soon after, Shanley headed over from close range following more Linnets possession.
Adam Jones, through on the 'keeper knocked the ball too close to him and a good 12th-minute opportunity had come to nought.
Immediately the ball went up the other end for Maine Road's best chance. Jack Coop had an effort blocked that fell to Ben Davison, who looked like he had scored - only for Dylan Forth to pull off a miraculous save, scooping the ball away to a defender (and a collective gasp from the crowd).
Danny O'Brien had a free-kick well dealt with by the Maine Road defence. Then a good run from Shanley led to a shot that was blocked.
In the 17th minute, we got the first corner taken by Louis Corrigan. Livesey's punch didn't clear the box but the defence smuggled the ball away.
It was only a brief stay though. Corrigan's next cross was met by a Maine Road defender, only after fouling Adam Jones. The referee didn't hesitate in blowing for a penalty. Danny O'Brien calmly stroked in his ninth pen of the season, putting Linnets a deserved goal to the good.
The Maine Road players felt somewhat aggrieved by the penalty decision and they got involved in some heated conversations with the officials.
It is noteworthy that Neil Chappell, often the pantomime villain in his past encounters with Linnets, was hard at work in midfield… hard but fair and that was a reflection of the game in general.
The rest of the first half saw the teams cancel each other out. The last chance of the half was from a free-kick conceded by Louis Edwards, bringing Mark Houghton down in full flow.
Danny O'Brien fired in a great cross, headed over by Matt Atherton. Ellison brought Stuart Wellstead on for Houghton at half time. The second half started in a similar vein to the end of the first.
An outswinging cross from Corrigan, too close to Livesey, was the nearest we got to a chance in the initial exchanges.
In the 53rd minute, the LSU were rewarded for their relentless vocal support and what a reward.
Kyle Hamid, back to his best and bossing the midfield, set off on a run that looked like it might be broken by his own team mates.
But no, they helped him find space on the left and he found the perfect ball for an overlapping Paul Shanley, who confidently finished despite the best efforts of the Maine Road keeper, Livesey.
Two-nil felt a little better for the dominance that the away team had demonstrated. Two minutes later, Hamid (again in control) played in Kris Holt, who after a clever sidestep pulled a shot just wide.
Within a few minutes, great work from Shanley gave Jones a good chance inside the box, but he put his shot well over the bar.
A busy Michael Simpson shot over after 61 minutes. This was shortly followed by a one on one chance for Maine Road number 9 Coop, but the Linnets defence held their line well and the assistant referee flagged for offside.
Then Ben Davison had another chance for Maine Road, shooting over from the edge of the box. There were certainly plenty of chances in the game and Linnets spurned a couple more soon after that.
Kris Holt pulled up in the 72nd minute and, after a couple of minutes treatment, he was replaced by Freddie Potter. Freddie was quickly involved in the action, having been fouled in back play while Wellstead and Jones were foiled by the Maine Road defence.
Then, in the 79th minute and after some desperate Maine Road defending that included a foul on Wellstead, the ball fell to the Wizard who shot through a crowd of bodies for a great goal.
Maine Road then had a chance snuffed out by a scrambling Linnets defence. That was only a brief respite for the Maine Road back line as Kyle Hamid spread the ball wide right for Jones to play in Wellstead, whose shot was palmed out only to Potter, who coolly slotted home his second and Linnets' fourth.
Into the dying moments, Maine Road had a chance that came to nothing with Linnets players loudly urging each other to keep the sheet clean.
This determination to keep out any threat led to some unadventurous play and it seemed like the game would peter out.
No such thing! I imagine that you've heard about the goal? Adam Jones scored from 30 yards with what could be described as goal of the season.
There should be no attempt downplay what was a truly special moment. A fantastic rising shot that was unstoppable.
There is a player yet to get a mention in this report - Jimmy Moore. Well, he was there and played a really important part in the game.
It's just that this was a game Linnets won 5-0 and the Maine Road goalkeeper was their Man of the Match. A dominant performance played for the large part in the opponents' half. Keep it going!
Maine Road: Ryan Livesey, Ryan Lyons, Ewan Rolfe, Jonathan Mason, Louis Edwards, Neil Chappell, Jamie Roe, Finn Thompson, Jack Coop, Ben Davison, James Ormrod. Subs: Jack Blundell, Jack Langford, Bailey Whalley. Unused: Paul Socha.
Runcorn Linnets: Dylan Forth, Louis Corrigan, Matt Atherton, Jimmy Moore, Danny O'Brien, Michael Simpson, Kris Holt, Kyle Hamid, Mark Houghton, Paul Shanley, Adam Jones. Subs Freddie Potter, Stuart Wellstead. Unused: Kieran Nolan, Aaron Morris, Mitch Bryant.
NB. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Runcorn Linnets FC or its Board.
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