26th August 2019, Runcorn Linnets FC v City of Liverpool FC : 4-2 Sponsored by Frodsham & District Round Table
A brace of goals from Connor McCarthy sealed Linnets' first victory in BetVictor Northern Premier League North West Division.
In front of a very healthy Bank Holiday crowd of 547, Linnets ultimately proved too strong for newly-promoted NWCL champions City of Liverpool despite the Purples taking an early lead and later forcing an equaliser soon after half-time.
The match began after the referee had overseen a minute's celebration of the life of Terry Murphy, an important part of the Runcorn AFC management team during the very successful early 1980s.
Terry died suddenly the previous weekend and the Linnets passed on condolences to his family and many friends.
Playing games on Saturday and Monday inevitably led to changes to the Linnets starting line-up. Peter Wylie, Harry Cannon-Noren and Jamie Rainford made way for Louis Coyne, Ryan Gibson and club captain Kyle Hamid.
Despite the disruption, Linnets played well from one to eleven against a strong City of Liverpool team.
CoL kicked off and the opening ten minutes, whilst entertaining, did not provide any direct threat on either goal.
Linnets right back Ally Brown drove forward a number of times in the opening exchanges, but his crosses were well defended by a visiting rearguard that, despite the scoreline, looked strong throughout.
McGrath, right winger for City of Liverpool, was a constant threat and in the early moments, he made a chance for Hazlehurst as well as having an effort of his own blocked.
In the 13th minute, it was McGrath who picked up a poor Linnets backpass, took it around Bayleigh Passant and scored from a narrow angle.
As the hosts settled back into their earlier rhythm, a free kick from Louis Corrigan was spilled by Johnson in goal, Shanley battling for the ball and rolling it to Ryan Gibson, who scored from the edge of the box to level.
Linnets had a period of dominance. Brown met a cross from Connor McCarthy on the volley, the effort being well saved by Johnson.
Paul Shanley then dinked the ball over the 'keeper but Danny Dalton got in front of him to draw a foul, which let off the Purps.
Connor McCarthy made another chance, this time for Hamid, with CoL again defending well, through Moore.
In the 41st minute, Ronnie McCarthy had a long- range shot well saved by the 'keeper.
It was beginning to look like we would go in all square until the 43rd minute.
Zac Aley had a cross blocked by the right back Denson, and after a moment's hesitation the ref pointed to the spot.
It looked like the new handball law coming in effect - this probably wouldn't have been a penalty last season.
Louis Corrigan calmly put the ball into the bottom left corner with the 'keeper going the other way.
On the stroke of half time, Louis Corrigan brought down a fast-breaking McGrath and received a deserved yellow card.
Louis will be grateful he doesn't have to play against the Purps number 11 every week.
A very hot day helped to get the players, staff and fans fired up at times throughout the game. Of the two teams, Linnets held their discipline much the better.
In the aftermath of a penalty claim for City of Liverpool, their number 6 Anthony Brown was booked for dissent.
McGrath had a shot blocked in a similar way to the Linnets penalty but in the referee's eyes, it was not a spot kick.
As the teams left the pitch, the referee had to wave away a number of City of Liverpool players as well as manager Craig Robinson.
Immediately after the break, Moore watched a shot from the edge of the box fly over.
Soon afterwards, Kyle Hamid was given a yellow card for a foul on Hazlehurst.
In the 51st minute, Runcorn's apparent control of the game was undone.
McGrath knocked in a free kick from the right, managing to get it through to Brown at the far post and when he calmly slid the ball under Passant, we were back to all square.
Following a good chance missed by City of Liverpool, Linnets got back on top in the 57th minute. A great run by Ryan Gibson got him behind Dalton and he rolled the ball back to Connor McCarthy for a cool finish into the corner.
Soon after, McGrath set up Clair who blazed over from inside the box to a collective sigh of relief from the fans in yellow and green.
In the 63rd minute, Ello made the first of his substitutions - replacing Nick Ryan with Dec McGivern.
Ryan had a good game at the back and looks to be forming a solid partnership with Louis Coyne.
Soon after, Zac Aley shot wide from a corner from Corrigan.
Up to the other end and McGrath got inside Corrigan to fire in a shot that curled towards the bottom corner. Passant, however, made an excellent save, tipping the effort around for a corner.
Paul Shanley drew a foul from Anthony Brown, as the ref blew for the free kick the CoL player followed through with a nasty challenge on Ronnie McCarthy, which could have left him badly injured.
Brown was deservedly given a straight red card. Having already been booked, he would have gone anyway.
From the resulting free kick, Passant knocked it long to Shanley who met it first time with a header on for Connor McCarthy to instinctively score, in off the far post.
In the 74th minute, there was a coming together in the City of Liverpool penalty area that led to nothing. Standing among the Purps fans, it was clear that they felt Linnets had been denied a certain penalty.
It was good to see that Runcorn maintained their discipline at this point and again soon after when a frustrated Craig Robinson, in trying to get the play going again, only managed to hit Paul Shanley in the midriff with the ball.
The referee took a moment to speak to Robinson and calm things down.
Kyle Hamid had not started a game in seven months, so to last until ten minutes from the end in such sapping conditions certainly warranted the standing ovation the skipper received on being subbed for Warren Bellew.
It wasn't just a case of surviving for 80 minutes though, Kyle had been key to a great team performance and Linnets are definitely better with him back.
Linnets ran out the game well, the substitutes maintaining the high level that had been set early on.
There was a chance at the death for Connor McCarthy to complete his hat-trick but his effort was tipped over by the 'keeper.
City of Liverpool have made the step up to the NPL with what looks like a very strong team and a definite star in John McGrath.
Three league games in and Linnets hit their stride in this game. It would be hard to pick out a man of the match; it was all about the team.
Ello will be keen to see this level maintained, going into some tough fixtures against the likes of Dunston and Droylsden.
Runcorn Linnets: Bayleigh Passant, Louis Corrigan, Louis Coyne, Nick Ryan (Declan McGivern 63), Ally Brown, Ronnie McCarthy, Ryan Gibson, Kyle Hamid (Warren Bellew 80), Connor McCarthy, Paul Shanley, Zac Aley. Subs: (unused): Ryan Wade, Harry Cannon-Noren, Michael Simpson.
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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