30th March 2019, Runcorn Linnets FC v Ramsbottom United : 1-2 Sponsored by Kerry's Krazy Kostumes
Runcorn Linnets suffered a rare home defeat - at the hands of Ramsbottom United - on Saturday as the teams lying in third and fourth places in the league faced off.
But despite the build up and anticipation, this game never got close to its potential; it did not reflect the quality that both the teams possess.
Paul Shanley's absence through suspension was a factor in Freddie Potter being brought back into the Runcorn starting eleven, Potter partnering Mitch Bryant in a front two.
Ronnie McCarthy also got his spot back in the side, in place of Josh Dobie.
The opening exchanges were rather cagey, both sides feeling each other out and making sure the back doors were kept firmly shut.
Ramsbottom let the Linnets know they were in a game with a few heavy challenges early on.
Freddie Potter almost carved out the first chance of the game, when he wriggled past two Rams defenders and was set to shoot from 12 yards out. But a last-ditch tackle prevented the opportunity.
Ramsbottom had a couple of half chances around the 20-minute mark, both from headers.
The first went wide following a free kick to the far post and then a well-directed header was curled just wide of the post from the near the penalty spot.
In the 28th minute, Runcorn took the lead. A long ball forward wasn't dealt with by the Rams defence, with Mitch Bryant nicking the ball from the feet of a defender and drilling a low strike, from just outside the penalty area, past the goalkeeper before he had time to set himself - a really well taken goal by Mitch.
Only a minute later, a rasping first-time volley from outside the penalty area had to be saved by Jordan Perrin to prevent an immediate Ramsbottom equaliser.
However, our visitors did draw level just five minutes later in rather fortunate fashion. A ball played low into the penalty area, from deep on the left wing, bounced up off the pitch at an awkward angle and struck an unsuspecting Peter Wylie on the arm.
There were plenty of reasons why you could argue that this was a very harsh penalty to concede, but also it would be one that you would want to be given in your favour if you were the attacking side.
Nic Evangelinos gave Perrin no chance with his spot kick.
Runcorn had been on top in the game up until conceding the penalty, but after equalising Ramsbottom went on to be the stronger team.
Early in the second half, a good turn of pace by Ryan Gibson saw the attacker find a route through the Rams defence into the penalty area, but his shot cleared the crossbar by some distance.
Barely a minute later, Ramsbottom came within a whisker of taking the lead when a long ball forward set Eddie Moran on a run in between a Linnets trio of Morris, Wylie and Perrin.
Moran got a clean head on the ball and with Perrin out of his goal, the Millbank Linnets Stadium crowd watched on as the ball floated towards the top corner of the empty net before eventually dropping just wide.
On the hour mark, a good piece of hold-up play by Mitch Bryant on the right of the Ramsbottom penalty area freed Kris Holt to turn and shoot narrowly over the crossbar. But it would prove to be the closest that the Linnets came to scoring a second goal.
With 65 minutes played, Ramsbottom scored their second and decisive goal. In a moment of miscommunication, two Linnets players went for the same ball near the halfway line, losing possession to Rammy.
The ball was sent out to the right wing where Moran managed to pick out a low cross into the Linnets six-yard box and Jamie Rainford turned it in from close range. It was a sloppy goal to concede.
Neither side was able to push on from there and the game turned very scrappy. Ramsbottom were content to try to hold on to their lead and Runcorn struggled to cause them any headaches.
The only real chance that the Linnets had to draw level was at the death when Bryant made his way into the penalty area and, from the by-line, pulled the ball back across the six-yard box. Nobody was on hand to connect and work the goalkeeper.
The game petered out and Rammy held out with ease to take maximum points.
Time will tell how big a result this turns out to be for both sides as they each look to challenge for promotion in these final few weeks of the season.
The result moves Ramsbottom into third, one place and two points above the Linnets in the EVO-STIK League West Division table, although the Lancashire side have played a game more.
Linnets now have just five games left of the league season - five 'cup finals' with the opportunity for a second successive promotion still firmly in Michael Ellison's sights.
Cup final number one takes place at Newcastle Town this coming Saturday, kick off 3pm. See you all there!
Runcorn Linnets: Jordan Perrin, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Allly Brown, Ronnie McCarthy, Kris Holt, Ryan Gibson, Freddie Potter, Kurt Sherlock, Mitch Bryant. Subs: Tom Bailey. Not used: Bobby Evans, Josh Dobie, Danny O'Brien, Tom Bailey, Frank Jones.
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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