1st September 2018, Runcorn Linnets FC v Trafford : 2-1 Sponsored by Brenda and John Jenkin
A familiar tale of injuries and unavailability forced Ello into a further change, this time from the team which had beaten Skelmersdale on Bank Holiday Monday.
Adam Gilchrist returned in place of Kris Holt. Niall Watson kept his place on the left of the attack.
Watson almost set up the opening goal within the first five minutes. Receiving the ball from Gilchrist, he advanced up the left wing and swung in a pinpoint low cross that Paul Shanley met with aplomb eight yards from goal.
But Matt Cooper, making his debut in Trafford's goal, pulled off a superb save to force the ball around a post when a goal seemed a certainty.
Louis Corrigan almost caught Cooper out with a clever free kick from which a cross had looked the only option. Corrigan, however, found an angle to the top corner and clipped the outside of the post with the 'keeper totally stranded.
After the opening 15 minutes, the game became a midfield and defensive show, and while not lacking in quality it did lack in goalmouth action.
Linnets' defensive unit in particular coped well with any openings that Trafford tried to create.
With half-time approaching, Linnets thought they had taken the lead when Niall Watson turned the ball in at the far post, but he was denied by a marginal offside flag.
Luckily it mattered not, as a few minutes later Runcorn did take the lead. After being awarded a generous free kick on the edge of the 18- yard box, Linnets full back Danny O'Brien was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Danny picked his spot, and curled a sublime finish beyond the reach of Cooper and into the far bottom corner.
Kudos also goes to Kyle Hamid for his Strictly Come Dancing audition in the Trafford wall that undoubtedly caused some confusion in their ranks!
It was a half-time lead that the hosts deserved.
For long periods the second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with chances at a premium for both sides.
Trafford had a sight of goal when a volley from 25 yards sailed over the bar, but beyond that 'keeper Dylan Forth was well protected by his guardians.
Ronnie McCarthy and new signing from Fleetwood Town, Liam Collings came on in place of Kieran Nolan and Kyle Hamid as Ello moved to shore up the midfield further to protect the one-goal lead.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, another set piece doubled the Linnets lead.
It was O'Brien again who took responsibility of the situation, and from a position near the left-wing touchline swung in a terrific cross that bent towards the far post.
Our Bowland Brewery August Player of the Month Shanley flung himself at the ball but it was unclear whether or not he got what would have been the faintest of touches.
The goal was officially awarded to O'Brien for his second of the match.
One thing that we have learned quickly about the new level we now play at is that you can't take your eye off the game for a second.
Teams can hurt you out of nothing, and they don't throw in the towel.
Despite going 2-0 down, with only 15 minutes left, Trafford rallied to pulled a goal back within five minutes.
A quick move on the left wing created space for a deep cross that found the imposing centre back Keil O'Brien at the far post.
He converted with his head to make the last 10 minutes uncomfortable for all in the Linnets camp.
Trafford tried hard to create a clear-cut chance as the clock ticked down and there were a couple of nervy moments - not least after Danny O'Brien was sent off late on for a second bookable offence.
But the only threat to Forth's goal came when Aaron Morris' attempted clearance smacked into team-mate McCarthy and straight into the grateful goalkeeper's arms.
This was a thoroughly deserved victory for Runcorn. We created enough chances, and more importantly converted enough chances, to feel justified in victory.
Even more so considering we limited Trafford to the one solitary meaningful effort on goal.
The defence can be forgiven for taking a couple of games to settle into the level at which we now play.
It's simply better from all angles, but they were in full control on Saturday and confident with it.
There is no doubt that it was our best performance of the season so far.
Runcorn Linnets: Dylan Forth, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Daniel O'Brien, Kieran Nolan, Michael Simpson, Kyle Hamid, Adam Gilchrist, Paul Shanley, Niall Watson. Subs: Ronnie McCarthy, Liam Collings, Josh Dobie. Not used: Bobby Evans, Jimmy Moore.
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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