1st October 2019, Ossett United v Runcorn Linnets FC : 2-2
It was truly a game of two halves, with the visitors initially failing to make much of an impression against a strong United side who dominated possession and won almost every 50-50 challenge, especially in the air.
Ossett were the league's lowest scorers after their opening six games, with only three goals, and there were clues as to why, with numerous openings created throughout a goalless first half, but little in the way of threatening attempts on goal.
Credit for this may be due to the Linnets rearguard, as few clear avenues to goal were permitted, but Bailey Passant in the Runcorn goal had few saves to make as shots rained in substantially high and wide, most notably from Reece Webb-Foster and Aaron Haswell.
A string of corners were also dealt with fairly comfortably by the 'keeper and the Runcorn defence, which featured returning 2018 player of the year Jimmy Moore for the first time.
Jimmy has had little or no game time and a number of injuries in recent months, but his second Linnets debut repeatedly featured his characteristic, confident ball-winning and skillful playing of the ball out of the danger zone.
Before a quarter of the game was up, a nasty-looking injury had him limping off, but he was back to make a major contribution to a clean sheet being maintained before he finally gave way to Josh Dobie after 64 minutes.
Runcorn's first sub was Peter Wylie for left-back Louis Corrigan some eight minutes earlier.
Most of Linnets first-half offensive efforts were based on aerial balls up to Connor McCarthy and Ryan Gibson, which was optimistic to say the least as Ossett's markedly bigger defenders got there first.
Centre-back Jorge Sikora in particular fired headers back into the Runcorn half over and over again.
Sikora's performance was assured throughout, although a second-half warning from the referee for the repeated wrestling of Declan McGivern at set pieces attracted no punishment as he continued to do it with impunity.
Runcorn's only first-half chance worth the name came just before the interval, when Connor McCarthy took a quick throw-in on the right to Kurt Sherlock, who turned and looped a cross to Jamie Rainford six yards out across the box.
Jay directed his header perfectly inside the left post, but with insufficient power to prevent the United 'keeper from getting down to make an excellent one-handed save.
The visiting fans were relieved to get to half-time level, and after the break were encouraged to see the first Runcorn attacking efforts with the ball on the ground and played to feet.
Zac Aley made some telling forays down the left, and Ryan Gibson on the right, and they began to give the Ossett defenders more to think about than simply heading clear to mount another attack.
Kurt Sherlock also started to look a real threat, having been more or less by-passed by the airborne efforts of the first half.
Just before the hour mark, Ossett finally broke the deadlock, with their second real effort since the break, following yet another well over the bar attempt by Webb-Foster.
With numerous bodies from both sides across the penalty area, a Haswell attempt flew left across the goal for Greaves to fire into the far-right corner from close range.
Having been second best for most of the first hour, it was surprising if welcome for the travelling faithful when the yellow and green rallied and started to look a real threat - not least with their ground-level attacks, bringing Kurt Sherlock into the game far more.
Seven minutes then changed the complexion of the game. On 70 minutes, a three-man move put Rainford behind the ball eight yards out and he finished neatly into the left corner to level.
Ossett continued to mount attacks and, for Linnets, McCarthy had a great chance which he couldn't control sufficiently to convert.
Then on 77, Zac Aley fired across the penalty area and when Souter failed to claim it, Sherlock advanced to shake off his marker and finish powerfully behind the 'keeper to put Linnets in front.
Ossett's match report contended that Jamie might not have been present to equalise, as just before the opening goal, he had elbowed Souter in the face in a goalmouth melee.
The truth of the matter is that Souter charged out to punch clear and ran straight into the back of Jamie's head (his arms by his sides).
We have been used for generations to goalkeepers being given the benefit of every physical contact, but when Souter eventually got to his feet, the free-kick awarded for his misadventure led
directly to Ossett taking the lead.
Harry Cannon-Noren replaced Jamie Rainford for a final ten minutes in which the tricky midfielder added promisingly to the Runcorn resurgence.
An improbable first away win beckoned for Runcorn, but chances continued to surface at both ends.
Ultimately, the substitution by United of Alex O'Keefe for Aaron Haswell after they went behind proved crucial.
O'Keefe's fresh legs immediately posed problems down the left, and the clock was on 90 when he found space in a populated area, when a cross from the right wasn't cleared, to finish powerfully from the far corner of the six-yard box, giving Passant no chance.
Added time was not to bring any further critical drama.
So points were shared for the fifth time in Linnets' ten league games to date, leaving their hosts still awaiting a home win.
Any neutrals turning up at 8.45 would probably call the score-draw the justified result of an entertaining game.
The visitors would naturally be disappointed, however, not to take three points when leading as added time loomed.
That said, it kicked off at 7.45, and the hosts will in turn feel that they might well have been three up at half-time.
If anyone from Runcorn was bemoaning the fact that a first away win remains a target, any pain will have been soothed when rumours that the M62 would again be closed at J21 proved to be ill-founded.
Hopefully the same journey for the third time in 12 days will benefit from being conducted on a Saturday afternoon, as the Linnets visit sixth-placed Pontefract Collieries for a rearranged fixture on 5th October, aiming to put a stop to their hosts' 100% home record.
Runcorn Linnets: Bailey Passant, Louis Corrigan (Peter Wylie 56), Jimmy Moore (Josh Dobie 64), Declan McGivern, Ally Brown, Ryan Gibson, Zac Aley, Kyle Hamid, Connor McCarthy, Kurt Sherlock, Jamie Rainford (Harry Cannon-Noren 82). Subs not used: Ryan Wade, Jordan Wynne.
Report:David 'Bill' Davies
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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