20th November 2018, Leek Town v Runcorn Linnets FC : 1-4
LINNETS booked a trip to EVO-STIK Premier side Hyde United as convincing winners of their Tuesday night Integro League Cup second-round tie at fellow West Division outfit Leek.
Top scorer Freddie Potter crowned his comeback after suspension with a second-half brace - including a stunning long-range drive.
His goals were sandwiched by a Danny O'Brien penalty, which had divided the sides at the break, and a flashing header for a rare Aaron Morris goal to round off the scoring.
On only their second outing to the impressive Harrison Park - the inaugural visit having been for a North West Counties League Division Two game against Leek CSOB in 2006-07 - Linnets struck twice within as many minutes in the final quarter to seal the contest.
It was a telling, almost immediate riposte to Leek having halved their arrears in what from tight beginnings turned into a free-flowing game after the interval with chances at both ends.
The first half had seen Linnets largely dominate and dictate but at that stage the play was generally lacking in goalmouth action.
Linnets' third spot kick in as many matches gave them the impetus, however, to go on to secure further progress in the competition.
Danny O'Brien, resuming right back duties after injury as well as taking back penalty-taking responsibility from the sidelined Kurt Sherlock, put the visitors ahead in the 23rd minute.
Connor McCarthy, going clean through left of centre, was brought down in the box.
The referee had no hesitation in granting the Linnets the spot kick and O'Brien never looked like missing as Leek custodian Danny Roberts was sent the wrong way.
Earlier, Louis Corrigan's cross from a left-wing short corner had deflected off defender Jessy Bavanganga and on to the near post.
Then with his side trailing, Roberts had to punch clear Zac Aley's excellent left-wing cross under pressure from last season's Linnets title winner Stuart Wellstead, who made a surprise Linnets return - re-signed, on dual registration, from Hallmark Security Leaguers, Rylands.
Otherwise, there were very few clear-cut opportunities for Linnets while Leek, despite likewise playing good football, also found it very tough to create genuine openings.
The Staffordshire hosts, looking to avenge a single-goal league defeat at The Millbank earlier this month, looked a completely different proposition upon the turnaround.
Within the opening six minutes of the second half, they had not only forced a superb save from Matty Holmes (after Linnets had been caught cold by a solo run and shot from the left) but also struck the woodwork from long distance.
However, Leek's attempted revival was halted when on the hour Aley served up another delicious left-wing cross, which Potter gleefully headed in to make it 0-2.
The home side, having built up another head of steam, got the goal they had been threatening and deserved.
Aaron Bott was on hand to convert from inside the six-yard box as a right-wing cross was knocked back across goal in the 70th minute.
But that provoked quick retaliation from Runcorn.
Shanley, hearing a shout from Potter, laid the ball off for the centre forward to drill home an unstoppable 72nd-minute effort from not far short of 25 yards.
The 'keeper was beaten from the moment the ball had left Potter's right boot and never moved, let alone got near the shot.
With 16 minutes left, a terrific night's work was rounded off in style by the depleted Linnets.
So stretched were their selection options that manager Michael Ellison named both himself and first team coach Chris Lawton as substitutes.
Shanley was the provider and centre back Aaron Morris the scorer of the closing goal.
The latter got in front of his man at the near post to steer home a powerful flick header from a left-wing cross.
It was only a fourth Linnets goal in 106 appearances for the defender, albeit hs second of the 2018-19 season in which Potter has now reached double figures.
The third-round tie at Hyde is on Tuesday, December 4th.
Runcorn Linnets: Matt Holmes, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Danny O'Brien, Zac Aley, Stuart Wellstead, Kyle Hamid (c), Freddie Potter, Connor McCarthy, Paul Shanley. Sub Ronnie McCarthy. Not usd: Michael Simpson, Chris Lawton, Dylan Forth (GK), Michael Ellison.
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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