9th November 2019, Runcorn Linnets FC v Prescot Cables : 1-1
At 16:55 on Saturday many of the drenched supporters of both sides felt that a higher power was looking down favourably on the Linnets.
Despite easily our worst performance during Ello's tenure as manager, a last-kick-of-the-game Zac Aley corner curled straight into the net to earn Runcorn an unlikely Buidbase FA Trophy lifeline.
Given the absolute torrents of rain that had flooded the country on Thursday and Friday, it was remarkable to see the pitch cut short and firm under foot; much credit to the club's groundstaff under very testing circumstances.
Runcorn just never got started in this game. Connor McCarthy, starting as the lone striker, cut an often isolated figure as he chased an endless supply of long punted clearances - the Linnets' pattern of play being to lump it forward whenever Prescot lost the ball.
One worrying factor that was clear from early doors was that the match official liked the sight of his cards. Three players had their names taken inside the first 20 minutes in what was a clean game throughout.
It brought about an unnecessary sense of caution that took away from the game slightly.
The visitors were in control from early on and stayed in control. However, in the opening 45 minutes their control led to no meaningful test for Matty Holmes in goal. The 'keeper had made a surprise return in goal with Bayleigh Passant nursing an injured elbow and Richie Mottram unavailable for family reasons.
By half-time, Runcorn had recorded zero efforts on target while Prescot managed a pair, neither of which caused Holmes any stress.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first, but Prescot started to look threatening with their possession.
Holmes was called into action in the 49th minute when a low cross from the right was scuffed goalwards from eight yards out. It was a chance with which Prescot should have done better.
For the next 20 minutes, Runcorn just couldn't get hold of the ball. Wave after wave of Cables pressure was building.
And in the 68th minute, the pressure told - from the Linnets' biggest foe of the season so far, a corner kick.
The initial danger was partially dealt with, but the ball dropped kindly for Kev Edgar to slam home from just outside the six-yard box to give the visitors a thoroughly deserved lead.
Ello brought on Zac Aley, Ryan Wade and Jamie Rainford in a bid to rescue the game. But the Linnets just couldn't muster anything that could be considered a threat to the Cables' lead.
Passes were going astray and long aimless balls going straight out of play or to the goalkeeper.
The referee signalled a final four minutes of injury time for us to try to salvage something - even if that something was just to be a single shot on target.
In the 95th minute, the unbelievable happened.
Linnets won a corner which Zac Aley took as an inswinging left footer.
But Zac's corner didn't beat the first man, that first man bring Cables goalscorer Edgar who headed the ball behind for another corner.
The irony was that a better corner would most probably have been scrambled clear and ended the game.
But with a free hit, Zac stepped up again - and this time he found that one-in-a-million delivery that took the 'keeper out of the game and curled gloriously into the far top corner - -Jamie Rainford being close by to ensure the goal was scored one way or another.
Ello said himself after the game that this was a very poor performance, second best in every single department.
I'd argue that the goalkeeping department was the only exception, Matty Holmes was excellent. But aside from that, Ello was spot on; it just wasn't good enough.
And despite all that, we got another crack at it! Prescot will be kicking themselves that they didn't see us off at the first time of asking.
The importance of the replay was ramped up several notches by Monday's draw, with the winner hosting FC United of Manchester in the final qualifying round later this month
Runcorn Linnets: 1 Matt Holmes, 2 Louis Corrigan, 3 Jack Hinnigan, 4 Peter Wylie, 5 Ally Brown, 6 Tom Owens, 7 Ryan Gibson, 8 Kyle Hamid, 9 Connor McCarthy, 10 Kurt Sherlock, 11 Paul Shanley; Subs: 15 Ryan Wade, 17 Zac Aley, 14 Jamie Rainford. Not used: 12 Josh Dobie,16 Harry Cannon-Noren, 18 Warren Bellew.
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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