24th October 2020, Kendal Town v Runcorn Linnets FC : 2-3
Linnets headed up a damp M6 to the South Lakes with two changes from Tuesday's thrilling 4-2 victory over Tadcaster Albion.
Jacques Welsh replaced injured Tom McCready, and midweek signing
Alex Downes came in for Scott Lycett.
Lycett was on the bench, as was another new face, Carl Spellman.
Duracell bunny Iwan Murray started where he'd left off against Albion, attacking intent producing a shot on target narrowly deflected past the post by magnificently- named right-back Precieux Ngongo,
from a triangular move involving Welsh, Lindfield and Brown.
The corner went long, then Alex Downes' first cross in yellow and green ran into touch. Kendal's first attack on the break found two heads before O'Mahony cleared from Hugo Rodriguez.
Ally Brown made the first two of many troublesome first-half runs at the left side of the home defence, repelled by Butterfield-Steede and Seydou Bamba, and then Linnets found themselves
behind after six minutes.
A seemingly harmless ball from the left to Christopher Humphrey, who still had most of the Linnets defence in front of him, was steadied and struck clean and low inside the right post from 20 yards out.
Rather like Tadcaster's second goal on Tuesday from a similar position, Nik Bulmer in the Runcorn goal didn't anticipate a shot where one didn't seem on.
Your reporter timed the goal at four minutes, and was gutted to discover the official timing was six, only after he got home with a Golden Goal ticket bearing a 6 still in his wallet.
The goal was a harsh warning sign for the visitors, as Humphrey was to be Kendal's greatest threat all afternoon.
Going behind was nothing new for Calum McIntyre's unbeaten men, but once again it neither rattled them nor spurred them on to frantic urgency.
The game plan continues almost as though nothing has happened, and Linnets set about a progressive passing game across the width of the pitch, much of it sparked by Louis Hayes from in front of the back four.
This time Ally Brown on the right was a
driving force in most of what Runcorn created, and they created a lot. Iwan Murray was also present in every attack, from left, right and centre.
Collecting Ally's ball into the box on eight minutes, he was tackled for a long clearance that was relayed from Humphrey on the right, giving Rodriguez a free header that went wide.
On ten minutes Short's cross from the left won a corner which found Crilly at the near post, his shot clearing the angle of post and bar. Then a 30-yard Lindfield free-kick, after Fagan had fouled Downes, was headed out for a corner, which Short hooked out.
Brown was fed by Murray, Hayes and Short to supply three blocked crosses before the industrious wing-back was caught offside.
Down the hill, Butterfield-Steede and Bamba set danger man Humphrey away on the right, but his cross was too long for Rodriguez. The goal-kick found Lindfield via Short, and he spied a chance to shoot from 30 yards, but it flew high.
From 'keeper Bacon's clearance, Lindfield attacked again, his cross handled at close range. The free-kick was headed by Brooke off Charlie Barnes, and from the corner Brooke headed again but over the angle on the right.
A spell of incessant Runcorn pressure was building. Brown turned inside Butterfield-Steede, his dipping shot just too high, then Murray beat three men on the right touchline, a cross rebounding off
Bamba somehow adjudged as a Kendal throw-in.
A first Kendal attack on the break for a while found Charlie Birch on six yards inside the left post, his shot drawing a great point-blank save by Bulmer.
Linnets had had the lion's share of possession and attacks as the half-hour loomed, but with a greater run of luck, Town could have had a frankly bizarre 3-0 lead.
Runcorn attacked yet again, Crilly beating Ngongo and pulling back to Brown in the area, but Bamba cleared. A Lindfield-Brooke-Welsh triangle set off Brown wide right again, his cross blocked by
Then Ally Brown's industry met its reward. Lindfield's header from his cross was well saved by Bacon, but Brooke was on hand to bury the follow-up from inside the six-yard box.
The visitors felt that equal terms were less than their domination of the ball deserved, and waves of attacks followed until the break. In a rare Runcorn long-distance effort, Hayes spotted Bacon off his
line and shot from almost halfway, but pulled it wide left.
Crilly won the ball near the right corner flag
and found Murray at the near post. His low shot was blocked by Bacon, and Lindfield's follow-up shot swerved past the left post again.
Barnes pulled back Murray 30 yards out, Lindfield's free-kick reaching Brown via Brooke and Crilly, and his cross drawing headers by Brooke and O'Mahony, the second caught by Bacon.
The Kendal 'keeper was becoming vocally irritated by the work his defenders were leaving him to do, but in fairness they were doing a good job in limiting paths to goal for the Runcorn onslaught.
Kendal advances were few before half-time, and they were interrupted by O'Mahony, Hayes and Downes.
Brown played a ball into Brooke in the area, a quick backheel intended for Murray being intercepted by the toe of Bamba.
The last action of the half was a snap cross from Murray which ran just too fast for
Brooke to connect from ten yards out.
The feeling among the travelling fans at half-time was that if the pattern of the game continued, surely their team would prevail.
From the restart, Linnets seized possession and attacked down the slope. Bamba took ownership in the left side of the penalty area but needed too long and was robbed by Murray, Bacon scooping up his low
cross at the near post.
Then Brooke advanced through the area, drawing two defenders and the 'keeper. He slipped a pass to the left, this evading Lindfield, when a shot might have been the better bet.
There was a growing feeling that dominance of possession by the visitors was being devoted to setting up team mates with a sure thing, when the odd speculative attempt on goal might have borne more fruit, as it had done for Kendal's Humphrey early on.
But the one-way traffic continued. Two corners from the left gave Brooke a close-range header that cannoned off a post, and after Crilly won a throw on the right, Murray was tripped entering the area.
Referee Matthew Young awarded a free-kick outside the area, presumably because a first foul on Murray had occurred there, with advantage played.
But as that had resulted in a foul inside the area, surely the 'advantage' should have been a penalty?
The free-kick was left by O'Mahony and headed out, for Crilly to play it back into the area, where Downes met it near the left post to mark his Linnets debut with the simplest of goals.
Once more Bacon was outraged by his teammates' failure to cover the threat.
Surely Runcorn would go on to make the three points their own, with advantage finally gained after 52 minutes.
Not so much. Murray continued to torment Birch and Butterfield-Steede from the right
flank, but on the break Kendal ventured into the Linnets third for the first time in the second half, and Humphrey (who else?) cut inside from the right and played a diagonal ball for Birch to drill a shot into the top right corner.
A vast amount of Runcorn work had achieved no more than level terms, perhaps suggesting that a dozen touches weren't always necessary, when two or three had given Kendal a brace of goals, from
no more than three realistic chances.
Normal business was resumed, with wave after wave of Runcorn pressure. Murray was tripped 25 yards out, Short's in-swinger for the top right corner kept out well by Bacon, and another Short shot
deflected for a corner. Brooke headed a Lindfield cross over, but a foul was called anyway.
On the hour Brown saw a yellow card for stopping Birch's advance with a trip. Humphrey's speculative free-kick swung wide left.
Back down the hill, a Murray shot was easy for Bacon, Crilly's cross was hooked wide by Brooke, and Welsh cleared the bar after Lindfield, Brooke, Short and Murray completed eight passes to find
him on 18 yards.
Short received another Runcorn yellow after felling Humphrey's advance at the halfway line. Mr Young had played advantage, but Bamba's shot had flown well wide and high.
It was a brief interruption to the visitors' attacking endeavours, and with 18 minutes remaining, Brown flighted a cross for a Brooke/Crilly headed combination to reach Iwan Murray near the left post.
He fired home from the same spot Downes had done, his second goal in a Linnets shirt, four days after his first, putting the Runcorn men ahead once more.
A wave of substitutions followed, Kendal replacing Livingston with Hulme, three minutes later Scott coming on for Lightfoot, and Fagan giving way for Samson with eight minutes remaining.
One Runcorn new boy replaced another with Spellman on for debut scorer Downes after 83.
Among the player exchanges, a Brooke-Crilly combination set up Murray for a shot that was well blocked by Barnes. Linnets fans called for shots rather than admittedly impressive passes, feeling that
a clearance up to the troublesome Humphrey could still turn three points into one.
Into the last ten minutes, the Kendal No7 was indeed allowed enough time and space for a powerful shot on target, but it was confidently smothered by Bulmer.
On the break from a rare second- half Kendal corner, Spellman broke away for his first attack in a Runcorn shirt. He turned inside Ngongo but the right-back got a vital toe on the ball to intercept.
Barnes saw yellow for halting Murray's break on halfway with a pull on his arm. The free-kick reached the penalty area where Brooke's header cleared Bamba and the advancing Short, before beinf half cleared
by Ngongo for Brooke to chip deftly over the defence, shaving the top of the crossbar.
Referee Mr Young drew less criticism than most in marshalling a hectic game, but there were occasions when he appeared a little fussy. He called a foul on Bamba on the halfway line for what appeared to be a textbook on-the-ball shoulder charge, and twice whistled Runcorn's Alex Turner,
who subbed for Murray on 87 minutes, for ball-winning tackles.
In four added minutes, Ben Wharton was introduced to end a superb contribution by Stuart Crilly.
Stoppage time allowed a final solo run from his own third by Louis Hayes. He evaded the attentions of three defenders wide left as he awaited support, and won a throw-in ten yards from the corner flag, but it failed to produce another attempt on goal.
The final whistle heralded a measure of relief for the fans of a Runcorn side who had thoroughly dominated the match without putting it beyond the reach of their hosts. I had personally witnessed
many teams win by five or more goals without commanding a game to the same extent.
But it would be harsh to put that down to profligacy on the part of the Linnets attack.
Morgan Bacon had given his teammates consistent earache for the amount of exposure he had faced, and he had dealt
with it very well. But no open goals were missed.
Trojan defending for most of the 90 minutes will have left the Mintcakes' rearguard wishing they had more than three days to regroup before facing Mossley on Tuesday.
Man of the match for Linnets was a very tough call. Hayes turned defence into attack over and over once more. Ally Brown was a thorn in Kendal's left side all afternoon. Stuart Crilly might have scored
three and made three more. Lindfield and Short took it in turns to give Town nightmares, and Iwan
Murray did three hours' work in 90 minutes.
But my irrelevant vote goes to Ryan Brooke. I swear there were two of him on the pitch. Time and again, I watched him head, pass, lay off and flick on, and when I tried to identify who had followed up, time and again it turned out to be Ryan Brooke.
Linnets moved up to 6th in the table, unbeaten with 12 points from six games, and matches in hand on
all of the top five.
A break from league action would come with a Halloween cross-country trek to
Pickering Town in the FA Trophy.
Runcorn Linnets: Niki-Lee Bulmer, Ally Brown, James Short, Louis Hayes, Sean O'Mahony, Alex Downes (Carl Spellman 83), Stuart Crilly (Ben Wharton 90), Jacques Welsh, Ryan Brooke, Iwan Murray (Alex Turner 87), Craig Lindfield. Subs (not used): Adam Barthram, Scott Lycett.
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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