10th September 2019, Runcorn Linnets FC v Droylsden : 0-1
There was a frustrating air of inevitability as Runcorn Linnets suffered a rare home defeat in what's becoming a familiar pattern in the early stages of this season.
Visitors Droylsden couldn't believe that they had escaped from the Millbank Stadium with both a clean scorecard and all three points.
Michael Ellison's job was not an easy one as a plethora of injuries to key players meant a major reshuffle to the pack.
Ally Brown, Paul Shanley, and Jamie Rainford all missed out through injury, though Shanley did manage a late 10 minutes from the substitutes bench.
Despite a packed medical room, Runcorn would go on to completely dominate the first half of this game and it should have been well out of Droylsden's grasp by the half-time oranges.
Ryan Wade played a key role in the opening 10 minutes, firstly shooting over the bar after a good piece of link play with Kurt Sherlock before setting up Ryan Gibson with a low cross. Chris Thompson in the Droylsden goal kept Gibbo's shot out.
Nick Ryan had a good chance from a corner but sliced his header wide, and Wade again looked good to open the scoring after some pinball in the Droylsden box but he snatched at the loose ball and put it wide.
A great run in behind by Connor McCarthy gave the forward room to look up and square the ball across the penalty area to the on-rushing Gibson, but he was a split second faster than the ball and it went just behind him with the goal gaping.
And a similar move on 38 minutes brought about a similar result as sublime play on the right flank between McCarthy and Sherlock led to a low cross right across goal that Wade was a fraction late in anticipating with his sliding effort at the far post. Think Gazza v Germany in Euro '96.
Runcorn had another chance on the stroke of half-time as McCarthy held the ball up well in the Droylsden penalty area but with team mates around him, crying out for a pass, Connor took a touch too many and lost out to a tackle.
Between walking from the bottom end of the ground to the top end at half time I heard it four times. "Just watch, after all that dominance we will fall behind from a corner". And the amateur fortune tellers got it spot on.
Linnets had one last great chance to change the outcome of this game two minutes into the second half. Kurt Sherlock beat his man all ends up and picked out McCarthy with a cross, but the usually ruthless front man stabbed the ball wide of the near post from six yards out.
With an hour gone, Droylsden dipped their toe into the Linnets penalty are for the first time in the game, and it brought about a stunning save from Bayleigh Passant, who tipped a looping volley wide at full stretch. Shortly after this, the Bloods won a corner and from it took the lead.
The deep set piece drew Passant off his line but he got nothing on the ball, leaving a free header at the far post that was gobbled up with no mistakes.
Warren Bellew, Tom Owens and Paul Shanley were all introduced from the bench to try and get the Linnets back into the game, but the hosts couldn't get any sort of rhythm going after falling behind.
The goal seemed to suck the energy and ideas out of the Linnets and the game became attritional with Droylsden banking up to protect their lead and the Linnets void of ideas on how to break them down.
This was summed up in the 96th minute of the game when Runcorn won a last-gasp corner, packed the Droylsden penalty area with bodies. But instead of swinging the ball in and hoping for some luck, they opted for a short corner, took a touch too many and lost out to the full-time whistle.
Ello seemed exasperated in his full-time Linnets TV interview.
Knowing that this game should have been put to bed in the first half, coupled with conceding another in a seemingly endless run of sloppy goals left him with much to ponder. Runcorn Linnets: 1 B Passant, 2 Z Aley, 3 L Coyne, 4 N Ryan, 5 P Wylie, 6 R McCarthy, 7 K Sherlock, 8 K Hamid, 9 C McCarthy, 10 R Wade, 11 R Gibson. Subs: 14 P Shanley, 15 W Bellew, 16 T Owens. Not used: 12 D McGivern, L Corrigan. Attendance:343.
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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