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31st August 2019, Dunston v Runcorn Linnets FC : 3-3

By Dave Bettley

Runcorn Linnets recovered a three-goal deficit to take a draw from this thrilling long-distance duel but they might well have grabbed all three points.

Linnets arrived home from their 12-hour round trip to Gateshead - the longest trek for a league game in their 13-year history - with a certain satisfaction after their superb comeback.

But they had more than enough overall play and chances in the second half, when the blustery wind was at their backs, to have won - unlikely as that had seemed at 3-0 down after 25 minutes.

This was very much a tale of the unexpected from the start; the way in which Dunston took apparent charge could not have been predicted after the early exchanges.

Runcorn had been the better side in the first 15 minutes but conceded a poor goal, when caught napping at a free-kick, then a penalty and to make matters a good deal worse, a third Dunston goal within a minute of the second.

But with determination and no little skill, the visitors had had reduced arrears to 3-2 by half-time - this against hosts, who had marched to the Northern League title in 2018-19, finishing 17 points clear.

The only surprise after the break was that it took Linnets until the 70th minute to get back on terms.

Connor McCarthy met a right-wing cross from sub Ryan Wade with a firm header to make his mark and find reward for his endeavour and perseverence.

The Linnets' lone striker may have been outnumbered by the opposition defence but was never outplayed, outfought or outrun.

Earlier in the half, however, Connor had three times missed the target when well placed and into stoppage time, he could have snatched victory.

Another Louis Corrigan free-kick (a set piece by the deadball specialist left back having begun the Linnets comeback), was knocked back across goal by Paul Shanley from his new-found station on the right.

Shanley's header to the left of the six-yard box didn't just cause confusion for home defenders but uncertainty among three Linnets players waiting for it.

The ever-willing Connor McCarthy eventually had a stab at onverting, but his effort was again wide.

With both sides attacking from start to finish, if not always defending as well as they should have, there was still time for Dunston to also go close.

But 18-year-old 'keeper Bayleigh Passant rounded off a highly- impressive August by making a match-saving stop with his legs.

Showing one change from the side which had started the Bank Holiday home victory over City of Liverpool - Dec McGivern replacing Nick Ryan at centre back - Runcorn had made an encouraging start.

Corrigan and particularly Ally Brown both had licence and confidence to push forward from the full back berths to enhance some attractive Linnets play.

However, the away defence was slow to react to a free-kick played to the right of their box after 17 minutes.

Liam Marrs' delivery picked out Mark Fitzpatrick, whose drilled cross from the right was pounced upon by Luke Page, scoring from the centre of goal at point-blank range.

Fitzpatrick's hold-up play was posing problems for Runcorn in tricky conditions and when he was obviously upended by McGivern inside the 18-yard area, the centre forward got up to convert himself.

Before Runcorn had regrouped, Dunston were in again.

An already shellshocked Linnets back four was further punished by Cadwyn Scott tucking a shot inside the left post.

It threatened at this stage to be a long afternoon and an even longer journey home for Michael Ellison's men.

But the visiting team's early work had suggested that they had the beating of the Dunston back line.

On the half hour, Corrigan's floated free-kick was met by 6ft 4in McGivern's brave, stooping header in a crowded area to give the away side hope.

A minute from the break, it really waa "game on" again, Shanley's raid on the right culminating in a smart left-foot finish by Gibson - his second goal in as many games.

This gave Linnets the impetus to continue a comeback which they couldn't quite crown with a winner.

Runcorn Linnets: 1 Bayleigh Passant, 2 Louis Corrigan, 3 Louis Coyne, 4 Declan McGivern, 5 Ally Brown, 6 Ronnie McCarthy, 7 Ryan Gibson, 8 Kyle Hamid, 9 Connor McCarthy, 10 Paul Shanley, 11 Zac Aley. Subs: 14 Ryan Wade, 15 Warren Bellew. Not used: 12 Nick Ryan, 16 Jamie Rainford, 17 Harry Cannon-Noren.


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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