20th April 2019, Trafford v Runcorn Linnets FC : 0-0
Runcorn Linnets drew a blank on Saturday when making our first trip to Trafford since 2007 - the only previous visit having come in the Linnets' first season in the North West Counties League's top flight.
Trafford won the league title that season and have been a Northern Premier League club ever since. Promoted alongside them were Salford City. Wonder what happened to them?
With Linnets players holding play-off hopes firmly within their own grip and Trafford on a high from winning the Integro League Cup in midweek, the scene was well set for an entertaining game.
However, by full time, Runcorn were grateful to be leaving Trafford with a goalless draw as the home side should really have won the match.
The sun was blazing over this Easter Bank Holiday weekend, and Shawe View really did look in fine fettle.
It's a very tidy ground with cover on three sides and 'old school' grass bank standing in some areas. The pitch was also in magnificent condition, something for which Trafford are well known.
Runcorn started brightly and ought to have taken the lead a few times in the opening 10 minutes.
Freddie Potter was unlucky not to convert Paul Shanley's header across goal when a block denied him, and Ryan Gibson should have done better when he found himself unmarked with a free volley at goal from six yards out.
But Gibbo snatched at the ball with his weaker left foot and Trafford's goalkeeper made a comfortable save.
In the eighth minute, the Linnets had huge shouts for a penalty waved away. Anthony Hickey turned his marker inside out and as he dribbled into the Trafford penalty area the ball was halted at ground level by the flailing arm of a defender.
It was difficult to see the justification for not giving a penalty in that situation, despite the ever-confusing ambiguity of the handball rule these days.
Either way, the referee and linesman had a good look but said "no".
Louis Corrigan had a free kick saved before Trafford's first foray into the Runcorn penalty area.
The hosts really should have taken the lead with a totally free header at the far post following a counter attack led by the impressive Darius Palma.
But Liam Ellis somehow managed to clear the crossbar with his goal attempt.
Just after the half hour mark, Trafford had another glorious chance to take the lead in almost identical circumstances. A free header from only six yards out was sent sailing over the bar with the goal begging.
Freddie Potter went close for the Linnets with a low and bobbling strike that required the full stretch and fingertips of Matty Cooper to tip it around a post.
But the scoreboard remained untroubled when the half-time whistle blew.
The opening quarter of an hour of the second half couldn't have been more agonising for the large travelling Linnets support as their team went close on a number of occasions. But the ball just would not drop for us.
Mitch Bryant looked to have broken the deadlock when he got on the end of Louis Corrigan's free kick but put the ball just wide of the near post.
Paul Shanley tried his chances with a free kick that had the net rippling and supporters cheering but, unfortunately for Linnets, it was the outside of the side netting.
Louis Corrigan's cross caused a melee in the Trafford box with Byrant's eventual shot heading in before being blocked en route by a determined Trafford defence.
And, in the 66th minute, Anthony Hickey sent a looping header goalwards. It could easily have dropped straight in or found Freddie Potter, who was in position to nod the ball over the line from under the crossbar. But Cooper somehow managed to force the ball over the bar at full stretch.
With Runcorn not having taken the chances that came our way, Trafford finished the game stronger as the Linnets began to tire.
Disaster looked to have struck in the 90th minute when Chris Palmer's rising shot beat the dive of Tom Scott but crashed into the crossbar, bounced back into play and was cleared after some head tennis.
There was little debating that Runcorn had much the better of the play for most of the game, but we lacked the cutting edge and didnt make the most of our chances.
Trafford, meanwhile, created three gilt- edged opportunities and really should have taken the points, despite being reduced mainly to sporadic counter attacks.
The 0-0 draw was only the second such scoreline of Runcorn's debut EVO-STIK League West Division season, the other having been back in September at the Millbank Linnets Stadium against Radcliffe.
Runcorn Linnets: Tom Scott, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Ally Brown, Kris Holt, Ryan Gibson, Antony Hickey, Freddie Potter, Paul Shanley, Mitch Bryant. Subs: Kurt Sherlock, Tom Bailey, Zac Aley. Not used: Frank Jones, Danny O'Brien.
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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