8th January 2019, Runcorn Linnets FC v Stalybridge Celtic : 1-1 [Pens:5-4] Sponsored by The Quizlings
Runcorn Linnets progressed to the quarter-finals of the Cheshire Senior Cup on Tuesday night after a thoroughly entertaining tie against higher-ranked opponents.
A last-kick-of-the-game equaliser from Kurt Sherlock and a German-esque display of penalty taking ultimately sent our visitors from the EVO-STIK Premier Division home empty handed.
There were several changes to the Linnets side from recent games, and with a month of crucial fixtures against fellow top six clubs ahead, the strong Runcorn performance will have given our management team much to ponder.
Tom Scott, Josh Dobie, Kris Holt, Bobby Evans and Ryan Gibson all returned and there was a debut for newly-signed Luke Noble. The powerful centre forward would go on to turn in an impressive first showing in Yellow and Green.
Noble's impact was immediate; a powerful run towards goal was halted by Stalybridge's goalkeeper on the edge of the penalty area after only three minutes, Aiden Winterbottom receiving an early booking for the clumsy challenge.
Left back Louis Corrigan took the free kick, which fooled the 'keeper with the angle suiting a right-footed strike.
Corrigan was very unlucky to see his excellent effort hit the crossbar and bounce away for a goal kick.
Stalybridge's biggest threat was coming from set pieces, their overall height advantage over the Linnets allowing them a few headed attempts at goal but none found the target.
Ryan Gibson, impressive from start to finish, almost opened the scoring in spectacular fashion on 39 minutes. Picking up the ball by the dugouts, he went on a mazy run from the left wing into a central area just outside the Bridge penalty area. From from there, he unleashed a curling strike that left Winterbottom rooted to the spot but curled just past the top corner of the goal by the narrowest of margins.
Shortly after the restart, a great passing move between Matty Russell and Kris Holt set up Noble in for a shot at goal that Winterbottom did very well to save - nobody in a Linnets shirt on hand to knock in the rebound.
The Linnets had started the second half well and at a good pace, but fell behind against the run of play to a 55th minute penalty. Scott Bakkor squeezed his low penalty through the clutches of Tom Scott, who got a good hand to the ball but couldn't quite keep it out.
Freddie Potter and Paul Shanley were brought on in place of Noble and Kris Holt as the Linnets set about rescuing their place in the competition.
With 15 minutes remaining, Stalybridge came within a whisker of putting the tie to bed. A ball over the top set Neil Kengni in on goal and with Tom Scott beaten in the chase, Kengni's lobbed effort seemed destined for the empty net but dropped just wide.
Ronnie McCarthy was on the receiving end of a crunching tackle that brought his night to an early end, McCarthy being replaced by Sherlock.
Runcorn upped the pressure on the visitors' goal as the clock ticked towards full time, a pair of very later corners failing to bring about the equaliser and it looked as though that would be it.
But in the last of the alloted four minutes of stoppage time, one final Linnets corner was sliced clear by Stalybridge towards the far touchline.
Much credit is due to Ryan Gibson for refusing to give up on the looping, spinning ball as he raced to keep it in play. Gibson managed to bring the ball under control and lay a pass into the run of Kurt Sherlock.
Sherlock beat two men on his run into the penalty area and with everyone expecting a square pass to the waiting masses, Kurt had other ideas and drilled a low strike past Winterbottom from a tight angle - a truly fantastic goal in the dying seconds of the game.
There was not even time to restart play as the referee blew immediately for full-time, Sherlocks's dramatic equaliser proving to be the last kick of open play.
With no extra time in Cheshire Senior Cup, it was once again straight to penalties for the third time this season.
Both teams scored their first penalties, Louis Corrigan converting for Runcorn, before Tom Scott pulled off a magnificent save to deny Bridge skipper Glenn Rule with Bridge's second.
Aaron Morris, Kurt Sherlock, Bobby Evans and Freddie Potter all kept their cool from the spot to send the Linnets through 5-4 and maintain a sparkling record in penalty shootouts this season, the Linnets converting every penalty kick they have taken in spotkick deciders.
We now look ahead to Saturday's massive EVO-STIK League Division One West fixture against Atherton Collieries at the Millbank Linnets Stadium.
Bring a friend along with you to this one, these games are usually action packed and full of goals.
Attendances have been excellent lately and we would love to have another 400+ crowd to get behind the lads on Saturday. Kick off is at 3pm.
Runcorn Linnets: Tom Scott, Matt Russell, Louis Corrigan, Josh Dobie, Peter Wylie, Aaron Morris (capt), Kris Holt, Ronnie McCarthy, Luke Noble, Bobby Evans, Ryan Gibson. Subs: Paul Shanley, Freddie Potter, Kurt Sherlock. Not used: Kyle Hamid, Matt Holmes (GK).
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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