14th July 2018, Runcorn Linnets FC v Chester FC : 3-5
Linnets will take away a number of positives from their first pre-season friendly, against National League North side Chester, despite the 3-5 scoreline.
The Millbank pitch has something of a golden hue following this summer's glorious weather. We must never grumble about a hot summer, but we can spare a thought for the hardy souls who form the Pitch Maintenance team at Runcorn Linnets.
After making Herculean efforts to keep matches on during a winter that saw every form of precipitation, they now find themselves performing daily rain dances to bring the turf back to its usual lush self.
The Linnets' line-up was largely made up of familiar faces, including two of the trialists. Chester included in their numbers three players familiar to viewers of the TV series about the Class of '92's Salford team in Steve Howson, Gary Stopforth and former Runcorn Town player Scott Burton, who also had a very brief stint with Linnets in 2009.
All three have arrived at Chester since the managerial double act of Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley made the move earlier in the summer.
Chester had the ball in the net as early as the second minute, but the effort from Matty Hughes was disallowed for offside.
However, Brown's darting run helped win a 10th-minute corner, which Chester converted to take an early lead. Pritchard floated the corner across and Howson powered home a header from 12 yards out.
Three minutes later Chester's defence stopped playing, expecting a foul to be given, and Grant Shenton had to produce a triple save to avoid Freddie Potter or the home trialist playing at No.11, levelling up.
On an afternoon when he could lay claim to being Man of the Match, Potter made amends just six minutes later. Breaking the Chester high offside trap, Potter bore down on Shenton's goal and fired into the top corner from an acute angle.
Trialist No11 fluffed his lines on 26 minutes when losing his footing with the goal gaping after a pull-back from the impressive Potter.
Danny O'Brien left the fray around the half hour mark, replaced by Kasie Jones.
Chester re-took the lead on the 40-minute mark and once again, it was Pritchard who netted from the penalty spot, as he had done in the county city team's midweek win at Ramsbottom.
Chester's centre-forward trialist was barged into the penalty area by Paul Shanley, giving the referee little option but to point to the spot. Pritchard confidently tucked the spot kick into the bottom corner, sending Dylan Forth the wrong way.
As half time approached, Jimmy Moore fell awkwardly on the hard pitch. The referee took the opportunity to blow his whistle whilst Jimmy received treatment.
Chester made an encouraging start to the second period, with Hughes' early effort charged down by Linnets usual holding midfield player Kieran Nolan, on at centre half in the place of Jimmy Moore.
Johnson and Morley's men went 3-1 up after 53 minutes through their on-trial striker. Brown did superbly well to loft a tremendous ball into the trialist's path, and the former Football League striker did the rest, nodding past the goalkeeper and knocking the ball into an empty net.
Linnets replied almost instantly to reduce the deficit to a single goal. Scott Burton's error in midfield allowed Trialist No.11 to race through on goal ad calmly slot past Shenton from 12 yards. It was an eventful afternoon for number 11, who looked quite familiar to the home fans.
Chester's trialist frontman went close on the hour mark, rattling the upright after Pritchard had swung in a delightful cross.
Just two minutes later and Chester were gift-wrapped a fourth goal. Runcorn's fifth trialist, who had only been on for a matter of minutes, comically sliced an attempted clearance into his own net, almost Van Basten-like.
Matty Holmes, in goal for the second half, was left bewildered as the unintended effort flew in from an acute angle.
Chester's defence was again exposed by some more great play from Linnets who pulled another goal back on 78 minutes, Shanley converting a left-wing cross from just six yards out.
Only three minutes later, Chester restored their two-goal advantage, Mooney's left-footed ball being converted at the back post by the Football League trialist for his second of the day after no defender was able to intervene.
The word from most Linnets fans at the end of the game was that they had gifted three or four goals to Chester but also that after scoring three well-worked goals of their own the hosts can hold their heads high.
All in all a good day in the sun. Now bring the rain.
Runcorn Linnets: Forth, Trialist A, Trialist B, Moore, O'Brien, Simpson, Holt, Hamid, Potter, Shanley, Trialist C. Subs: Holmes, Jones, Trialist D, Trialist E, Trialist F, Nolan (all used).
Chester FC: Shenton (Trialist C 80), Smalley (Trialist B 83), Moran (Hellawell 83), Howson (Thomson 83), Pritchard, Mahon (Murray 65), Stopforth (Noble 73), Burton (Downes 83), Hughes (Marsh-Hughes 73), Brown (Mooney 65), Trialist A.
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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