13th October 2018, Colne v Runcorn Linnets FC : 1-6
Runcorn Linnets turned in a dazzling performance at Colne on Saturday as Michael Ellison's men recorded an eye-catching victory against one of the EVOSTIK League West Division's strongest sides.
In terribly difficult conditions, due to a powerful swirling wind at the exposed Sovereign Play Stadium, the Linnets adjusted perfectly to inflict a margin of victory that has been on the cards for a while.
Ello had more players available for selection than in recent weeks after struggling by with a threadbare squad, with one particular addition to the substitutes' bench bringing absolute joy to the travelling Linnets faithful late in the game. More on that to come!
Freddie Potter and Paul Shanley returned to the starting eleven while Kieran Nolan missed out through suspension.
Ello kept to his recent change in formation with Freddie Potter and Connor McCarthy forming a fearsome partnership in attack.
The Linnets came flying out of the traps and had appeals for a penalty turned down before Kris Holt opened the scoring on eight minutes.
Picking up the ball from midfield, Holty found space outside the penalty area and curled a glorious effort into the far top corner, giving goalkeeper Hakan Burton no chance.
Linnets kept the pressure up after taking the lead and found themselves two goals to the good on 25 minutes. From a similar position to where Kris Holt had scored, Danny O,Brien swung a low free-kick into the heart of the Colne penalty area. The ball was swept home through a crowd of bodies by Freddie Potter.
Only four minutes later, the Linnets were gifted the opportunity to score a third goal from the penalty spot.
Another O'Brien free- kick was delivered into the penalty area and seemed to go harmlessly out of play for a goal kick. But when everyone had gathered themselves, the referee was pointing to the penalty spot, having seen Pete Wylie pulled to the ground as the ball was on its way.
O'Brien calmly sent Burton the wrong way with his spot kick to give the Linnets a 0-3 lead after just 30 minutes.
Colne looked totally shell shocked, but a Steve Cunningham side never throws in the towel and as half-time approached, the hosts found a bit of composure and started asking a few questions of the Linnets defence.
Shortly before half-time, Colne did grab a goal back in the most fortuitous of circumstances. A harmless-looking cross from the left seemed destined to be drifting out of play for a goal kick before getting caught in the wind and turning towards the top corner of Dylan Forth's goal.
Forth tried to scramble the ball away but the unpredictable flig caught the Linnets stopper out. The goalkeeper and ball ended up in the back of the net.
It would be the only minor blip of an otherwise flawless Linnets performance.
Despite being so comfortable and unlucky to concede, a 1-3 scoreline put the game in a position from where the next goal would be crucial.
On 52 minutes, that goal came and it was scored by Connor McCarthy.
Louis Corrigan swung in a corner kick to the far post. Aaron Morris controlled and sent the ball back across goal - McCarthy being on hand to poke it over the line from two yards out.
The game settled down with the Linnets in a commanding position and Colne trying to find an avenue back.
They did find a couple of openings and looked threatening from set-pieces. But the Linnets defensive unit stood firm and rebuffed anything thrown at them.
The closest Colne came to a damage-limiting goal came in the 79th minute, when Dylan Forth made a superb save from a close-range header.
A minute later, this miss was punished to the max by the Linnets. Breaking out at speed down the left wing, Kurt Sherlock (on as a substitute) advanced into the Colne penalty area and was brought down in a cynical challenge to earn the Linnets a much clearer-cut penalty than the one in the first half.
O'Brien again converted to put the result beyond any doubt.
In the 86th minute came a wonderful moment for everyone associated with the Linnets.
More than 14 months ago, one of Ello's key players, Zac Aley suffered an innocuous-looking injury.
The prognosis, however, wasn't good and setback after setback resulted in knee surgery being required.
Zac himself said how tough it had been to watch his team mates win the NWCL title last season from the sidelines. But while many would have thrown in the towel on the game, Zac showed a tireless determination and loyalty to the cause to fight through all the pain and frustrations to get his career back on track.
It's rare that in such a strong away performance, the overwhelming highlight was a substitution. But the delight could not be hidden as Zac Aley was brought back into the team in place of Louis Corrigan to start his Linnets career all over again.
He even had the audacity to help create the sixth and final goal of the day!
Breaking out from his left back position, Zac advanced with the ball to find Connor McCarthy, who in turn fed Paul Shanley to pick his spot and beat Hakan Burton from 10 yards out - a very well- worked Linnets goal rounding off a magnificent performance from Runcorn.
Of our eleven Evo Stik West games played so far, this was without any doubt the strongest and best Linnets performance.
Colne are a very good side and they will be expecting to be in the promotion dogfight come April. However, on the day, they had no answers to a devastating Linnets attacking game and were also kept very quiet by an equally impressive defensive unit.
Michael Ellison demands the highest of standards from his players and often finds areas for improvement even in victory. But Ello will look back with sheer delight on this performance and know that his side achieved close to perfection.
Last word of the day, however, must go to Zac Aley. It's great to have him back!
Runcorn Linnets: Dylan Forth, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Michael Simpson, Kris Holt, Kyle Hamid, Freddie Potter, Connor McCarthy, Paul Shanley. Subs: Kurt Sherlock, Zac Aley. Not used: Josh Dobie, Bobby Evans, Adam Gilchrist.
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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